India are placing a high value on having a wide array of bowling options in T20I cricket. So, despite the risks involved, they went in with four No. 11s in each of the five games against West Indies. The resulting lack of batting depth has been a big talking point and it appears the team management is very aware of this. Head coach Rahul Dravid admitted that they were hamstrung by the resources they had – or lack thereof – after finishing on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline.
“I think in terms of our squad here, probably it didn’t allow us the flexibility in some ways to be able to change the combinations a little bit,” he said in the press conference after the final T20I. “But I think going forward, we’ve got to look at certain areas in which we can get better. Finding depth in our batting has been an area we are trying to address. We are trying to do the best we possibly can but that’s certainly an area we can look at, how we cannot weaken our bowling attack but ensure we have a certain amount of depth in batting.
“As these games are going on, and scores are becoming bigger and bigger, if you look at West Indies, they had Alzarri Joseph coming in at No. 11 and he can hit a mean ball. So you have sides which have that depth. Obviously, we have some challenges on that front and we need to work on that. It’s certainly something that this series has shown us and we need to build on that depth.”
Several senior players were missing from this tour either due to workload management or injury. Even so, a lot of them are either specialist batters, like Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli, or specialist bowlers, like Jasprit Bumrah. India are searching for allrounders and Wasim Jaffer on ESPNcricinfo’s T20 Time:Out show suggested it may be time to bring in some more IPL head-turners.
“The bulk of the [T20 World Cup] team will be from this 15,” he said. “You need to look at the youngsters to take you forward in this format. So players like Yashasvi Jaiswal, Tilak Varma, Mukesh Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, they are the future. But there are some gaps you need to fill. The major concern is the batting finishing at No. 7. Quite a few of the top order are not getting a start and not converting it and quite a bit of that boils down to them feeling there’s nobody to bat after No. 7 so they have to bat the bulk of the overs and when you go with that mindset, it doesn’t help.
“Within ten months’ time, India will be playing the World Cup. This can’t be the template. The batting needs to come till No. 8, possibly No. 9, somebody who can tonk the ball. And obviously the bowlers, they need to start getting their batting a little bit better. At least their six-hitting or four-hitting ability. We need to look at guys who can bat and bowl. Shivam Dube comes to my mind. Venkatesh Iyer, Washington Sundar, those are the guys that come to mind and we need to groom them.”
How did India’s debutants in the West Indies fare?
Rahul Dravid’s report card for Tilak Varma, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Mukesh Kumar
Jaiswal, Tilak and Mukesh impress Dravid
The players who did get an opportunity in the West Indies made the most of it. Jaiswal struck a century on Test debut and a match-winning half-century in the T20Is as well. Tilak is already being talked about as an option for bigger challenges, like the Asia Cup. And Mukesh, having toiled for several years in domestic cricket for Bengal, proved he was good enough to win an India cap in all three formats in the space of just a few weeks.
“I thought all the three guys who made debuts for us in this series stood up,” Dravid said. “Yashasvi Jasiwal in the fourth game, I thought he played a very good innings. He’s shown us what he can do in the IPL and it was nice to see him replicate that in international cricket.
“Tilak Varma, I thought, was really good, to come in in the middle order. He came in sometimes in very difficult situations. He plays with a lot of intent, plays very positively, looks to move the game along, fielded brilliantly throughout the series, showed us he can bowl one or two overs as well. So really positive signs from Tilak and to have that left-hander in the middle order does make a huge difference against some of the attacks that we’ve been playing against.
“Mukesh as well. He debuted in all the formats in this series and I thought he acquitted himself really well. His ability to bowl at the death, sometimes he was called upon to bowl against some really big, powerful, hard-hitters and he acquitted himself well for someone who was just playing his fourth or fifth game. So I think there’s some real good positives in the guys who made their debuts for us and hopefully they take confidence from the series and keep learning as they go forward. They’ll be going to Ireland and get a few more opportunities in the T20 format and I’m sure the more opportunities they get, they better they’ll be.”