The pull shot is Rohit Sharma‘s ego and the swirling in-swinger is Bhuvneshwar Kumar‘s pride. On a nippy Thursday night in Jaipur, both unfurled their signature moves – which had deserted them for the last few months – to set the tone for India’s resounding five-wicket win over New Zealand in the first T20I.
Whenever a regime changes, the convenient assumption is to see wholesome changes and fresh faces. There’s no denying that there’s underlying anxiety a week after a soul-scarring T20 World Cup campaign. As the talks about a major transition started gaining steam, India’s veterans stepped up and announced they still have enough in them to carry Indian T20 cricket forward for a while. New T20I captain Rohit was at the forefront along with Bhuvneshwar and R Ashwin of a dominant show.
Scorecard | As it happened
Rohit’s 48 off 36 balls in the chase of 165, Bhuvneshwar’s masterful spell of 2/24 and Ashwin’s wily spell of 2/23 was just the sense of reassurance Indian cricket needed which was on the threshold of pressing the panic button. It allowed Suryakumar Yadav, coming in at 50/1 in the sixth over, to play freely for his 40-ball 62 and anchor India’s chase which was completed with two balls to spare.
Rishabh Pant (17* off 17) held his nerve to finish the job with a boundary off Daryl Mitchell before Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson applied the choke on an undercooked middle order of Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Venkatesh Iyer when India needed 21 off 20 balls after Yadav departed.
India played a perfect game for 35 overs except India’s biggest weakness was exposed wide open – lack of power-hitting finishers. New head coach Rahul Dravid and Rohit have a problem diagnosed right at the top of their tenure.
We are off to a winning start! 👏 👏The @ImRo45-led #TeamIndia seal a 5⃣-wicket victory in first @Paytm #INDvNZ T20… https://t.co/0wiWY7RAB2
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1637169811000
Each of these performances came at a time when New Zealand threatened to press ahead of the game. Bhuvneshwar’s trademark in-swinger knocked over T20 World Cup hero Daryl Mitchell for a naught in the first over. Rohit’s two marauding pull shots against New Zealand’s top guns Tim Southee and Trent Boult literally at the top of the chase knocked the wind out of the Kiwi attack. It was evident he got under the skin of Boult. The pull shot was talking again albeit it brought about his downfall to Boult later in the night.
Martin Guptill and Mark Chapman got on with masterfully building a 109-run partnership. Guptill, in his 42-ball 70, had lined up the three ‘junior’ bowlers-Deepak Chahar, Mohammed Siraj and Axar Patel. Chapman had just switched to top gear in 50-ball 63 when Ashwin intervened, deceived him in flight and put the brakes on the scoring before Guptill miscued one to Shreyas Iyer at deep mid-wicket off Chahar.
(Photo by Pankaj Nangia/Getty Images)
Ashwin removed Glenn Philips with a carrom ball in the same over he had got rid of Chapman. Bhuvneshwar finished the innings with a bagful of tricks in the death making it hard for the late middle-order to line him up. New Zealand may have been without Kane Williamson and Jimmy Neesham but the India’s senior bowlers were the one under pressure to prove a point coming into the game.
The series with a turnaround time of three days post the T20 World Cup was meant to be more of an audition round for both teams with big players resting from each side. Yet, Dravid and Rohit would be relieved that the veterans came good. They didn’t need much of debutant Venkatesh Iyer batting at No. 6. The T20 World Cup and this first T20I is enough to suggest the next line is far from ready to take on the best in the world. While one eye is on grooming the future, the present set of seniors need to ensure the process is not too painful for Indian cricket.