India whitewashed the West Indies in an ODI series despite the absence of a single power-hitter, which is as much an irony for the visitors as it is for the hosts.
Winning in elite sports is always special. Winning at home is even more so. The Indian Cricket Team was expected to win the series and they did so by convincingly beating a West Indies side that looked depleted both technically and tactically. Even after being such gifted and natural lofters of the cricket ball, the calypso batters once again lacked a sense of application in the middle. At this point, scoring runs isn’t their primary concern, but it is batting the full quota of overs.
At no point in the course of the series was India put under the pressure of a rising required run-rate. It is imperative that it be a likely scenario against better bowling and batting attacks. And when that happens, India’s only options are Deepak Hooda’s long leavers and Deepak Chahar’s audacity at the crease. For all his sound technique, Washington Sundar hasn’t yet developed a game that revolves around hitting boundaries at will.
Recently, India has been extremely cautious at the start of their 50-over innings. Having empowered technically sound batsmen in the top three positions, they are okay with slow starters who are capable of scoring big and making up for the sedate start. Rohit Sharma has a similar template to Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, and Virat Kohli. If Ishan Kishan doesn’t find a spot there, then the first half of the innings will hardly be a high scoring affair in the future.
This shouldn’t have been a problem if the men to follow had been serious strikers. Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, and Suryakumar Yadav are all quick scorers against spin. Iyer and Pant might still manage to take the attack on to the opposition but not exactly outmuscle them, not because they don’t have the firepower but because their roles demand them to be more stable than outright explosive.
Hitting the ball for a six is not exactly rocket science in modern day cricket. It is almost second nature for batsmen. But being a power hitting finisher is still one of the highest paid jobs in franchise cricket because it demands the entirety of MS Dhoni to fulfil the role. You can’t just put a palm groove hitter on the field and ask him to finish games. He will either launch too early and get out before scoring enough runs, or he might take it too deep and succumb to the pressure. You need someone brute enough to clear the fence but smart enough to calculate the risks.
By the time Hardik Pandya had cemented his place in the team, he had everything he needed to become the best power hitting resource in the world. Perhaps he still has it. But without him, there is a void that needs to be filled. Pandya’s technique revolves around a solid base. Tactically, he has evolved to pick the match-ups in his favour. Physically, he might not have the most muscle mass, but he thrives on a strong core. Beyond these superior skills, Pandya was immaculate in how he read a certain situation. While searching for quick runs, many mortal minds are clouded by a sudden rush of emotions, but not Pandya. After having faced a ball, irrespective of the result, he was quick to reflect on it. He had orchestrated a coping mechanism that made him recover and relax during the deliveries. And with years of training, he had mastered the art of refocusing on the next ball.
Deepak Chahar, along with Shardul Thakur, will be paired with Washington Sundar and Ravindra Jadeja to form the first set of all-rounders in contention for the World Cup squad. If Hooda continued, he would be on that list too. Allow us to include Axar Patel in that set as well. All of them can hit the ball. Most of them can hit it for a six. A few of them can go on and on and hit multiple sixes. But none of them bring a sense of awe and fear to the opposition when it comes to six-hitting. In no other skill set in cricket does reputation win you more games than in late order hitting.
That reputation can be built over a period of time, and all of these players will try and do that in the next IPL, which is also India’s best case scenario.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)
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