India can moan about flat pitches and harsh rules, but if we don't address the bowling issues, we’ll lose an opportunity to evolve as a cricketing nation, writes Aakash Chopra
A random bilateral series has no context and therefore everything hinges on the two teams to provide a sterling contest, and for that you need a bit of help from the curators.
Umesh Yadav. Pic/Getty Images
While the series in Australia showcased some phenomenal batting from both sides, the balance that cricket seeks for, was completely missing. This series produced a record 3,159 runs and 11 centuries (most in a bilateral series) — a record that the curators should feel slightly embarrassed of. From India's perspective, there was very little gain after the 1-4 drubbing and that should be a cause of huge concern. But whenever there's no tangible gain, there's an opportunity to learn.
There was nothing that we didn't know about Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma or Shikhar Dhawan and hence even their outstanding show with the bat were along the expected lines. This series gave us a glimpse of two young players that India should invest in. Jasprit Bumrah's consistent pace and accuracy was a treat to watch in Sydney.
He bowled in three different phases of a high-scoring ODI and impressed in all of them. His unorthodox action gave him a head start because anyone who plays him for the first time doesn't know what to expect, and he's a yard quicker than you think. He also showed good control to execute yorkers in the death overs — something even the most experienced Indian pacers of this era have struggled to accomplish.
If Bumrah was impressive with the ball, Manish Pandey has been exceptional with the bat. With his Man of the Match performance in the last game, he's made a strong case to be included in the playing XI the next time India plays ODI cricket. Rahane at four and Pandey at five would provide both solidity and fluency to the new Indian middle order.
Need a finisher ASAP
Indian ODI team is going through a transitional phase in the lower-middle order. MS Dhoni's decline as a finisher is quite evident and if selectors continue to ignore Raina, India won't be at par with the best teams in the world. Top order batsmen would set up matches and, perhaps, win a game here and there too but the real match-winners are the men who bat at five, six and seven. Ever since 330 has become the new 280, the importance of finishing strongly can't be overstated.
And India simply doesn't have anyone in the league of AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell and Jos Buttler. Also, the absence of stable and explosive lower order forces the top-order to be too conservative for too long. Something that's been highlighted throughout this series is India's scoring rate between overs 31 to 40 which has hovered around 6.5 runs per over with seven-eight wickets in hand. Most teams in this period go hell for leather, but India plays the waiting game. It can't go on like this for too long.
The most heard phrase during Indian team's post and pre-match press conferences was that 'our bowlers are learning important lessons'. While some of the Indian bowlers were indeed young and inexperienced, the core Indian bowling unit was not just fairly experienced but also, had toured Australia before.
Isn't bowling a cluster of good balls mandatory for an international bowler? How's bowling a yorker in Australia different from bowling them in India? Making mistakes is an important aspect of evolution, but not learning from them is quite frustrating. We can complain about flat pitches and harsh rules but if we don't address the bowling issues, we'll lose an opportunity to evolve as a cricketing nation.