India`s Axar Patel (L) celebrates with team captain Suryakumar Yadav after taking the wicket of Australia`s Tim David during the fifth and final T20I. Pic/AFP
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Much was expected from Mumbai's Suryakumar Yadav before he walked out to lead a sprightly bunch of 'Gen-Next' stars against a buoyant Australian side in a five-match T20I series, four days after a gruelling Motera contest. Forced to suppress the massive disappointment of a World Cup final defeat in the deeper confines of his heart, Yadav was hardly given a chance of introspection.
But the 33-year-old understood his assignment very well. It's then that India, exactly two weeks later, are basking in the glow of a series win that leaves them clogged up with admiration, and pride to a greater degree.
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"I gave away too many runs but God gave me another chance and the support staff believed in me. To be honest, nothing was going in my mind. Surya bhai told me whatever has to happen will happen," a beaming Arshdeep Singh said after India's comprehensive 4-1 series win. A year ago, he was the focus of vicious online trolling after his dropped catch off Asif Ali was held responsible for India's five-wicket loss against Pakistan in the Asia Cup. Thousands on the micro-blogging platform X posted tweets seeking to link him and his Sikh background to the separatist Khalistani movement. But this is a matter of the past.
Call it divine intervention or sheer luck, Singh on Sunday looked every bit the knight in shining armour as he defended ten runs in the final over of a nail-biting contest in Bengaluru, where India prevailed over Australia by just six runs.
The left-arm seamer has been profligate at the death in T20Is for more than a year. In fact, after giving away 37 runs in his first three overs on Sunday, who could have thought that he would be able to defend as many as 10 runs with the dangerous Wade on strike?
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Also, 10 runs off 6 balls seemed achievable, but as long as Wade survived. Perhaps, Singh had other plans, as it became evident after he repeatedly hit the ideal block-hole length with consummate ease. In the end, neither Wade lasted, nor Australia.
The Men in Blue had more than their share of individual superstars, but they all fired in unison throughout the series. Powered by their middle-order's consistency and backed by sustained bowling efforts, India never looked back, barring the third T20I where âMaxwell storm' prevailed upon Guwahati's Barsapara Stadium.
India's batting line-up, which has a bevvy of left-handers, strung together a superb sequence of performances to give some consolation to the fans who witnessed hosts India lose the ODI World Cup final to Australia. Captain Yadav, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rinku Singh, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ishan Kishan, and Jitesh Sharma managed runs, while leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi lived up to his pre-tournament billing of the team's star bowler and scalped seven wickets to top the chart.
Most wrote them off as they sidestepped in without their premier players, including Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. But against an Australian side that bore a formidable look with World Cup heroes Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Adam Zampa and Steve Smith in its ranks, India rediscovered their winning ways, putting up strong totals in each game.
India's unblemished middle order almost invariably brought about match-winning results consistently. However, the vulnerable top order rarely had a back-up plan, in case of early wickets. The batsmen rarely dominated the game once the opening partner was back in the hut. Thanks to Rinku, who designated the role of holding the innings together more than once, formed a solid nucleus for the middle overs that helped India recover after initial hiccups.
Bishnoi, their highest wicket-taker, accounted for more than all wickets that Australian bowlers took in the series. Gaikwad and Jaiswal were prolific at the top of the order while batting together, Yadav was an immovable object at No. 3, Jitesh and Rinku were absolute freaks, doing it all, and Arshdeep Singh, Mukesh Kumar, Avesh Khan, and Axar Patel bowled brilliantly in partnerships to create as well as sustain pressure. Aussies, meanwhile, will only have themselves to blame after failing to produce a perfect epilogue to their country's highly fruitful stint in Indian shores over the last two months.