The T20Is between India and New Zealand saw the hosts clinch the series 3-0 – here are the key takeaways from the three matches.
Without big stars such as Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, and Jasprit Bumrah, the India team started off the new era under Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid with a convincing win against the T20 World Cup finalists. We take a look at the major takeaways of the series.
A new road opens up for R Ashwin in white-ball cricket
R Ashwin, who last played a T20I game in 2017 before getting a call-up to the India team for the T20 World Cup has been a revelation since his return. The off-spinner has picked up nine wickets in six games thus far, conceding less than 30 runs on all occasions. He has not conceded a single six in this duration, and his performances will be a huge boost for a side that is struggling with inconsistency from their slower bowlers.
Varun Chakravarthy and Rahul Chahar have not been able to translate their IPL success in international cricket so far, while Yuzvendra Chahal is yet to win the trust of the management based on recent form. If Ashwin is able to continue his run, he could be the first-choice spinner for India in the lead-up to the next T20 World Cup.
Harshal Patel is here to stay
Harshal Patel ended IPL 2021 with the Purple Cap, picking up 32 scalps in just 15 games at an average of 14.34 and a strike rate of just 10.56, which helped him earn a call-up to the India team for the series against the Kiwis. Capable of changing his pace well along with his ability to bowl tight lines and lengths in the death overs, Patel grabbed onto his chances, picking up 2-25 and 2-26 in the last two T20Is, respectively.
With stalwarts Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami falling down the pecking order due to their inconsistent returns, Patel could be a regular in the squad in the upcoming months.
Venkatesh Iyer has shown plenty of promise
The India team desperately needed a replacement of Hardik Pandya, whose inability to bowl following a back surgery along with his poor form with the bat proved to be a major woe for the side. Venkatesh Iyer, who played a huge role in KKR’s journey to the final, albeit as an opener, was slotted down to the middle order for the T20Is, and showed why he could be the next big thing in Indian cricket.
Though he did not get many opportunities with the bat, he played crucial knocks, including a 15-ball 20 in a pressure situation at Eden Gardens. Most importantly, he picked up a wicket with the ball in the third game, giving 12 runs in his three overs, to indicate that he could be the seaming all-rounder the team has been on the lookout for.
Shreyas Iyer might not be what the team asks of him
Shreyas Iyer, a top-order batter, was pushed down to number five in the T20I series, but one is forced to ask if it is the best position for the player to bat in. Not the kind of player who can tee off from ball one, the Delhi Capitals player was unable to get going in the two innings that he batted in against New Zealand.
In Kolkata, when the team needed him to stay at the crease till the end, Shreyas was dismissed playing a loose shot, going back for 25 off 20 balls. India would be wary of having many Shreyas like-anchors in the side when Virat Kohli returns, and it would be interesting to see if he retains his spot in the XI.
Does India need to look past Bhuvneshwar Kumar?
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has not been at his very best in quite a while, and given the stream of young bowlers cropping up, it might not be long before he is cast aside. Despite a below-par IPL, where he picked up six wickets in 11 games at an average of 55.83, Bhuvneshwar was selected in the squad for the T20 World Cup. However, he looked far from his best and was dropped after playing one match.
He ended the series against New Zealand with three wickets at an average of 25 and was expensive in the second game where he conceded 39 in his four overs. The loss of pace following his injury has been a huge factor in his decline, and with a number of options available for India, it remains to be seen if it is the end of the road for Bhuvneshwar in the format.