Ajinkya Rahane (left) made an impressive debut while Munaf Patel conceded only eight runs in three overs © Getty Images

 

By Karthik Parimal

 

India scripted another middle-order collapse in the T20 international at Old Trafford, Manchester as England inflicted yet another defeat. The only positives India could possibly draw from the match was Ajinkya Rahane‘s brilliant debut and Munaf Patel’s return to form. Rahane’s exceptional confidence and exemplary batting showed that he can be a force to reckon with. He was the only Indian batsman to dent the confidence of the English bowlers and played the short-pitched deliveries with utmost ease and grace. Rahane’s carnage left Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad clueless for the first time in this tour.

 

But India allowed the momentum to slip by and it required a brilliant second spell from Munaf Patel to ensure that India remained in the hunt.

 

Praveen Kumar started impressively but went unsupported at the other end. It’s unfortunate that Munaf’s first over went for 17 runs, taking into account that Kevin Pietersen was dropped in the very first ball of his over, but credit must be given to him for a tremendous comeback. Munaf conceded just eight runs in his next three overs. Importantly, his spell came at the most crucial stage of the England innings.

 

The focus primarily was on India’s bowling department in the absence of Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan Singh. Having said that, this was an opportunity for youngsters and a lot was expected of Ravichandran Ashwin and Vinay Kumar. Sadly, they couldn’t escape the wrath of the English batsmen. On a surface that afforded copious turn, Ashwin was ineffective. He went for 37 runs in his four overs and was wicketless. Vinay Kumar, too, proved to be expensive with an economy rate of 10 per over.

 

Shortcomings in the bowling department continue to haunt India and hence it would be interesting to see if they can go into the One-Day Internationals with a specialist fifth-bowler. Although batting has been Team India’s forte, frequent middle-order collapse on this tour remains a cause for concern. The absence of a genuine all-rounder has certainly put India’s think-tank in a fix. India needs an effective all-rounder, someone who can contribute when needed, with both bat and ball, like Tim Bresnan for England. To have four specialist bowlers would be an ideal option if Yuvraj Singh was in the squad. Someone like Yuvraj could have been an effective fifth bowler and his absence in this series has depleted the Indian side and given them a lot to think about.

 

India’s batting looks formidable even without Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag. The likes of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni have all proved their mettle often in the limited-overs. It’s often been the case that India has ended up losing despite putting up a decent total on the board. This calls for strengthening of the bowling department. Even in the Test series, the Indian bowlers couldn’t make the kill, despite having them on the mat at times.

 

Praveen Kumar has bowled consistently well for India in this series and it’s heartening to see Munaf back in form. The inclusion of Varun Aaron in the playing eleven during the one-day series can be a gamble worth taking. As Dennis Lillee opined, “Varun Aaron has the attributes to be successful in international cricket…. I am confident he would excel against England, if given a chance.”

 

England’s batting line-up is a formidable, and it could be a Herculean task for the Indians to restrict them to a gettable/defendable total if they go in with only four specialist bowlers, considering the fact that there are currently no big names in the bowling department. However, it will be interesting to see if India plays five bowlers and six batsmen considering its current batting form.

 

(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it).