India’s T20 cricket series win over England cannot be written off as just another routine bilateral home series win. Here are twelve reasons why this achievement is even bigger than what it seems.
1. Bigger and deeper talent pool
This year, 2021, is the World Cup T20 year, to be hosted in India. Hence it was important for India, in their last series in familiar conditions, to finish on a high note. By end of the 3-2 win, India now has even a bigger problem of plenty. No thanks to good performances from SuryaKumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer, Washington Sundar, Rishabh Pant, Rahul Chahar, Shardul Thakur and the back from hiatus duo, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya. Add proven performers Ravindra Jadeja, KL Rahul, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Mohd Shami; and players knocking the doors T Natarajan, Deepak Chahar, Krunal Pandya, Navdeep Saini, Axar Patel, Shikhar Dhawan; we are looking at over two dozen players who have their hands raised for the World Cup. No other nation has such depth and versatility in its talent pool.
2. Did all the required experiments
India experimented with players during this entire series even at the cost of risking the outcome. They gave the longer rope to their proven performers (read: the out of sorts KL Rahul); they gave a platform to all their X factor players (SuryaKumar Yadav, Ishan Kishen, Rahul Chahar); to have at least one confidence-boosting outing. Special credit to skipper Virat Kohli who willingly shunted himself up and down the batting order to accommodate all the experimentation, meant for the greater good.
3. World #1 opposition
England is the world’s #1 T20 team and has an extremely settled look about their starting XI, their squad and themselves. Aside from Mark Wood’s niggle preventing him from playing the second T20, England had the same strong First XI playing all games and knowing their roles. While India were searching for answers in many areas, England had all their boxes ticked. Beating such a team is a massive morale booster.
4. Lost four out of five tosses
England won four tosses in a series where toss and dew threatened to decide all games. Twice in two must win games, India had to defend a total in a stadium where odds favoured the team batting second. Yet India came up triumphs. Virat Kohli’s men have now prepared themselves of every possible worst case scenarios, come the World Cup… lose toss, heavy dew while bowling, top quality opposition, own players injured, imbalanced XI..
5. England very familiar with conditions and opposition
England were as much a home team as was India. With plenty of English players (and other overseas players) well exposed to IPL franchise cricket, to Indian players and to Indian conditions, there is nothing alien left for overseas teams these days. This is a big advantage for visiting teams, considering how when India goes abroad to play T20, they need days to acclimatise themselves to the weather, the pitches, the wind direction, the temperature, the humidity and the diet. In a way IPL franchise cricket has taken away a lot of home advantage from the Indian national cricket team.
6. Having to come from behind repeatedly
India won the series against the odds. They fell back twice in the series, lost both tosses in both must win games and then faced the challenges of dew in both must win games. During the fourth T20, in the last over, the ball was slipping out of Shardul Thakur’s hand like a soap. The dew was absent during the initial phase of the series but came down to haunt India as if posing one challenge after another, to test the home team’s mettle.
7. Lost home crowd support midway
India lost their passionate and vociferous crowd support advantage in the last three games. That India is not an easy place to come down and play, is partly because of the crowds. Midway through the series the crowd advantage was taken away from India, albeit for bigger and more important reasons. Imagine what would have happened had India been winning tosses and had over hundred thousand people rooting for them each of the games.
8. No Ravindra Jadeja
What is easily overlooked is that while India beat the best in the game despite multiple handicap; their biggest setback was playing the series without star allrounder and match-winner Ravindra Jadeja. This severely hampered the team balance. For four of the five games, India had to go with a risky five man bowling attack and instead take cushion of an extra batsman. This was done as India were risking batting debutants, at top of the order.
9. No Jasprit Bumrah
India’s ace pacer Jasprit Bumrah was also excused for this series to manage his workload. Jasprit used the break to tie the knot in his personal life and hopefully enjoyed watching a closely fought series from home comforts. India winning a tricky series minus their leading bowler, Boom Boom Bumrah, means a lot.
10. Exposed World #1 team’s bowling attack
In the must win fourth T20, India’s most dependable matchwinners – Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul & Virat Kohli – made a net total of 27 runs off 34 balls. It seemed curtains for India. But in the other 86 balls, the rest of the batsmen amassed 158 runs at a whopping 183% strike rate of the world’s #1 T20 team, England. Two days later the men in blue tonked the same set of bowlers for 224 runs. This is bound to raise questions of the visitors bowling attack – the same way as, three months ago, in Australia, the Indian team exposed the Australian bowling attack, across all formats.
11. Sowed seeds of doubt in their biggest rival
England had not lost a T20 series since July 2018 (coincidentally to India only). Over the next eight series that they played, the Lions had won seven and drawn one. England won the ODI World Cup in 2019 too. Yet, after this 3-2 loss, aside from their bowling attack, questions are being posed off their middle order too. There are seven Indians and only three English batsmen featuring in the top ten highest scores made in this series. In the top ten run averages as well as top ten strike rates, only four English batsmen feature compared to six from India. Eoin Morgan doesn’t feature in any those lists. There is already chatter that Dawid Malan’s strike rate in these conditions wasn’t upto the mark, that Ben Stokes is being wasted down the order and should bat up and that Sam Curran neither contribiuted with bat or ball. This Indian performance has indeed questioned England’s prowess.
12. High quality series amidst months of bio bubble stay
This was a high quality series, fought tooth and nail by both teams despite frustratingly stuck inside bio bubble for months. The intensity from both teams was sky high. Five matches later you won’t recall any key catches dropped or no-ball free hits going for boundaries, by players from either team. The series was alive till the last hour of the decisive fifth game and could have gone either way. This was an extremely competitive series with minimal unforced errors from both teams. The winner (India) has every reason to feel mightily confident about the upcoming future. Read: T20 World Cup later this year!
This blog has also been published on SportsKeeda.com