India vs New Zealand T20: Rahul-Rohit partnership; The early signs look good, but this is literally just the beginning | Cricket News

Three matches, three wins, yet another T20I series whitewash of the Black Caps.
A series win always feels good, but in this case, though Team India put up a dominant display across all three games against the Kiwis, most fans are still hurting from the dismal performance at the World Cup, where India did not make it to the knockout rounds. That’s totally understandable, but the fans have to be patient. The rebuilding process after all has begun.
This was our first dose of what the Rahul-Rohit partnership has to offer to Indian cricket. While this combination can be seen (as of now) only in T20Is, Dravid is the Head coach and his philosophy will be stamped across formats going ahead. And the early signs look good.
The changes that were made to the Indian squad for the series vs NZ were ones that were being demanded – Purple cap winner of IPL 2021 Harshal Patel was included, hard hitting all-rounder Venkatesh Iyer was called up, Axar Patel found a place in the team, having played just one T20I in four years before this series. Yuzvendra Chahal was recalled after being left out of the World Cup squad. The likes of Ruturaj Gaikwad and Avesh Khan, who were also part of the squad and are waiting in the wings for their opportunities.
The Indian team played with confidence (of course winning all three tosses helped). The first two matches were won while chasing – by 5 wickets in Jaipur and by 7 wickets in Ranchi.
It was good to see the team management deciding to challenge themselves by opting to bat first at the Eden Gardens on Sunday. It was a challenge for the batsmen to put up a big score and a bigger one perhaps for the bowlers, especially the spinners, to bowl with heavy dew at the venue. And all the boxes were ticked – the batsmen delivered, with Rohit leading from the front with a 31 ball 56. Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer and Venkatesh Iyer chipped in with handy knocks as India put up 184-7. But it was the bowlers who really won India the match. And it was good to see once again that they were players who were not part of the main World Cup squad who delivered. Axar Patel (a reserve player for the WC) walked away with the Man of the Match award for his figures of 3-9 in 3 overs while Harshal Patel took 2-26 in 3 overs. Venkatesh Iyer was given the ball too and he responded with figures of 1-12 in 3 overs, accounting for Adam Milne.
Winning cricket matches at home has never really been an issue for the modern Team India, but this series is not just another set of fixtures in the team’s calendar. It’s the beginning of the rebuilding process in many ways.
India rested the likes of Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami for this three match series. The Rahul-Rohit combination are currently in the process of drawing up a clear blueprint for Indian T20 cricket looking ahead to the 2022 World Cup after the World Cup debacle, and it will be interesting to see how the likes of Harshal, Venkatesh, Axar and others are accommodated and rotated once the regular first choice picks return.
There’s no doubt that India boasts a large player pool. The challenge from here on will be to ensure every player becomes a big stage player and is ready to perform on the larger stages, like the World Cups and Champions Trophy. Once India starts winning ICC tournaments regularly is when they will truly become world beaters in the eyes of the fans and critics.
It will also be interesting to see what plans the new team management has for Shikhar Dhawan going ahead in T20 internationals. He was not part of the World Cup plans either. Remember, there’s another edition of the T20 World Cup coming up next year.
One big positive, which is in many ways an extension of the World Cup, was the platform R Ashwin got to show the world just how dangerous he can be in white ball cricket as well. He bowled a total of 8 overs in 2 matches, took 3 wickets and gave away 42 runs at an economy rate of 5.25. That’s exactly the same ER that Ashwin had at the World Cup where he took 6 wickets in 3 matches. Going ahead, it seems Ashwin will and should feature prominently in India’s limited overs scheme of things.
The fielding was a big positive for India in this series as well and so was their ability to pull things back courtesy the bowlers after the opposition got a flying start. In the first T20I, Indian bowlers took five wickets in the last eight overs to ensure the Kiwis couldn’t put up a very big total.
One aspect that the team would want to work on more going ahead is the middle order batting. Suryakumar Yadav is hugely talented and should have ideally got his international call-up much earlier. But now that he is part of the scheme of things, Dravid will surely be talking to him about making sure he tries to play a big knock every time he walks out to bat at the very important number 3 or 4 slots, like he did in the first T20I of the series (62 off 40). In the next two matches his scores were 1 and 0.
Making the batsmen in the middle order accustomed to being floaters and not having a rigid batting order is also something that becomes crucial in this format. We already saw a glimpse of that in this series with Venkatesh Oyer. He batted at number six in the first T20I, at three in the second T20I, and then again at six in the third match when India batted first.
Another aspect is looking at situations in which the team has five main bowling options, but finds itself in a position where a sixth or even seventh option is badly needed. Preparing for an eventuality like this will also be part of the plans of the captain and coach. In the first two matches India used five bowlers. In the third six, including Venkatesh Iyer were used.
Rohit and Dravid are also very clearly trying to instil a culture of security for the youngsters. When a newcomer, who is known to play big shots walks out to play for India for the first time he or she will feel a tremendous amount of pressure, even if it’s not evident on your TV screens. A false shot and a few low scores could hit their confidence hard, but that’s where the captain and coach come into the picture.
After the series whitewash at the Eden Gardens on Sunday Rohit said – “We are trying to create a healthy atmosphere, giving the younger players security so that players can go out and play fearlessly.
“In the first meeting that we had, we spoke about this very clearly. Told them that ‘if you’re trying to do something for the team, that act will never go unnoticed; you will be noticed when you raise your hand and try to take pressure on yourself and try to do something for the team’. That’s the job of the captain and coach. To tell the players that ‘we do understand what you’re trying to do for the team’.
“You tell them to take their chances, and if it doesn’t come off, you still back them because we know what they are trying to do for the team.”
Someone like Venkatesh Iyer who, opening the batting, was a real star for the Kolkata Knight Riders and a big reason for KKR turning their season around and making the final of the last edition of the IPL has been asked to reorient himself and try and become a lower middle order batsman. It’s a challenge and he needs support while he makes the mental adjustment. And he is getting just that.
When asked about Iyer, Rohit said – “The plan is to keep Iyer in the mix as much as we can. At the same time, we need to give him a role to bat where he usually doesn’t bat for his franchise. It’s going to be slightly tough for him to bat down the order. We’ve given him a role to bat at No. 5, 6 or 7 and see if he can do the job for us.”
Rohit as a captain has the experience of gauging the ebbs and flows of a T20 encounter and taking quick calls. Five IPL titles are testament to the fact that he knows how to think on his feet in what is the most fickle format of the sport.
Dravid brings with him an incredible sense of calm into the dressing room. Having worked with young cricketers at the U-19 and India A levels he knows what it takes to bring out the best in a player, without making him feel intimidated. The World Cup performance gave Dravid a chance to observe from afar the things that were going wrong. He must have taken notes and is surely in the process of trying to draw up various plans to fix the chinks in India’s armour going ahead. He is not going to rush it, he will not be fazed by failure. He will wait, observe, learn and put in the hard work behind the scenes – just like he did when he was one of the cornerstones of the Indian batting line-up.
The win against the Kiwis was a good one, a satisfying one, but there are so many factors that need to be taken into account while analysing this win. The Kiwis had a blink and you miss it turnaround window after the T20 World Cup – in less than 24 hours after losing to Australia, the players who were part of the Indi tour were in Jaipur. And Dravid knows that. His words – “To be honest, we have to keep our feet on the ground and be a bit realistic about this win” – echoes one of his core beliefs – don’t get carried away, there’s always more work to be done.
This is after all, literally the beginning.

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Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh Born on 15 Jun 2001 an Indian author and activist from Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh. Live in New Delhi