The concussion substitute’, and its usage and application, became the central talking point from Friday’s series-opener.
Pleasantries, take a back seat. Decisions are causing furore, coaches are getting visibly incensed, veiled barbs are being taken at press conferences… we have a good-ol’ India tour of Australia again!
India had a batsman scoring 44 not out from 23 balls in a team total of 161. India then had a bowler taking 3/25 to derail Australia’s chase from a vantage point of 54/0 after seven overs.
As of the start of the game, India could have only had one of these two players on the park.
Ravindra Jadeja and Yuzvendra Chahal – a concussion substitute for Jadeja at the end of the first innings – played defining hands as India continued their unbeaten year in T20Is with an 11-run win over Australia at Canberra.
But the ‘concussion substitute’, and its usage and application, became the central talking point from Friday’s series-opener.
Let’s dive deeper into the proceedings as they happened at the Manuka Oval.
The oddities of India’s T20 batting
Three of the five fastest scorers in IPL 2020, with a minimum of 200 runs in the season, were Indians: Hardik Pandya (S/R 178.98), Ravindra Jadeja (171.85) and Sanju Samson (158.89).
Of the 15 batsmen to score 400 or more runs in IPL 2020, only six did so at a strike rate below 130: Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Devdutt Padikkal, Manish Pandey and KL Rahul.
India’s batting order on Friday featured three names from both of these lists, but three of the top-five came from the second list –and it would have been four, had India gone in with Shreyas Iyer ahead of Sanju Samson at number four. And Shikhar Dhawan, while showing a markedly different side to his game in the last two seasons of the IPL, happens to have a career T20 strike rate of 125.07.
You can probably tell what’s wrong, but let’s break it further down.
Typically frustrating as it was to watch Samson getting dismissed after looking like a million bucks for 15 balls, India were 97/5 at the end of the 15th over –Samson had contributed 23 at 9.20 runs per over; the rest of India’s top-five had provided 63 at a run-a-ball.
The vast majority of times, you do not win T20s with this batting approach.
That India even reached what could be considered a par score, was down to one truly exceptional innings.
Jadeja spares India’s batting blushes, again
For the second straight limited overs game, Ravindra Jadeja found himself out in the middle a lot earlier than a number seven ideally should –and delivered.
The above statement should also point to a move that could significantly address India’s balance issues in either white-ball format, but let’s save that for another day. We’ll get a chance soon enough, surely.
Numbers don’t often portray the full picture, but in the case of Jadeja – on Friday, as indeed in general in the recent past – they are shining through, so let’s allow them to tell the story.
Prior to Friday, no Indian batsman coming at number seven (or below) had scored 40 in a T20I.
Prior to Friday, only four batsmen coming at number seven (or below) had scored 40 in a T20I against Australia.
Prior to Friday, Jadeja had only once crossed 20 in a T20I – and that was that 25 off 35 balls against England in the World T20 of 2009.
Jadeja faced 16 balls from Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood – and scored 39.
Before the start of IPL 2020, Jadeja scored his T20 runs at 7.4 runs an over, and took eight balls per boundary. Since the start of IPL 2020, Jadeja has smashed 276 runs at 10.5 per over, and returned a boundary every four balls.
His big-hitting, too, is nearly twice as good –Jadeja is hitting a six every 13 balls since the start of IPL 2020, as compared to one every 23 balls before that.
Since the end of the 2019 World Cup, Jadeja has a Test average of 54.85 (11 innings), an ODI average of 59.80 (11 innings, with a strike rate of 101.70) and a T20 strike rate of 163.23 (17 innings for country and club, at an average of 47.57).
Concussion spares India’s tactical blushes
Despite having this version of Jadeja, and a version of Hardik Pandya who can’t be called upon to bowl, India went in with Jadeja at seven – meaning there was no sixth-bowling option in the XI.
Jasprit Bumrah was rested, with a view to manage his workload ahead of the all-important Test series, which meant India were without their premier fast bowler.
Strangely, India also opted to go without their premier spinner –Yuzvendra Chahal, fresh off a 21-wicket haul in the IPL, the best for any spinner in the tournament –on a pitch Australia deemed gripping enough to field two wrist-spinners.
But then, even as he struck game-changing blows with his bat, Jadeja was struck on the head while facing Starc in the final over of the innings; dizziness upon returning to the dressing room allowed India to make a change, and in what proved to be a seismic move in the game, Yuzvendra Chahal walked out as a concussion substitute.
Without meaning any disrespect to Jadeja’s bowling, wicket-taking isn’t the strong suit of his game –and at the point Chahal was introduced into the attack, with Australia 54/0 in seven overs, wickets were the only way back for India.
Chahal would go on to dismiss Aaron Finch, Steven Smith and Matthew Wade, his 3/25 enough to make him the first concussion substitute to be named Man-of-the-Match in an international game.
It worked out rather well for India, as Kohli was honest enough to accept post-match, but you’d hope it also told India a thing or two about their team composition.
‘Like-for-like’? As it turns out, yes
The notion that Chahal could be considered a like-for-like replacement for Jadeja is questionable – but only if you’re talking pre-match. That’s when you can broadly classify Jadeja as an all-rounder, and Chahal as a pure bowler, as implied by Moises Henriques after the game (and Justin Langer, as it would appear, during it).
But, as unlucky as Australia may feel on the day, the ‘Chah-deja’ swap at the Manuka Oval occurred after India’s batting innings. That’s where sub-clause 22.214.171.124 of ICC’s Concussion Replacement Guidance Note comes into play.
“In assessing whether the nominated Concussion Replacement should be considered a like-for-like player, the ICC Match Referee should consider the likely role the concussed player would have played during the remainder of the match, and the normal role that would be performed by the nominated Concussion Replacement.”
The operative words here are ‘the remainder of the match’.
What was the likely role Jadeja would have played during the remainder of the match? He would’ve bowled four overs.
What is the normal role that Chahal would perform? He would bowl four overs.
So as much as one school of thought may want to feel hard done by, the rulebook states that there is, in fact, nothing to feel hard done by.
A bowling display to take heart from
Washington Sundar got only two games out of five during India’s last T20I assignment in New Zealand, that too only after the series had been secured. On Friday, he delivered the most economical four-over spell by any bowler in a men’s T20I against Australia in Australia.
T Natarajan, on T20I debut, furthered his gains from the IPL as well as his ODI debut two days earlier, with an impressive and intelligent return of 3/30.
Deepak Chahar, playing his first T20I this year, bounced back after conceding three boundaries in the opening over to finish with a measured 1/29 – and his figures would have looked considerably better if not for the butter-fingers of his teammates.
On a day when Mohammed Shami – the senior-most of the five originally-selected bowlers – conceded 0/46 in four overs, India defended a score of 160, eventually with considerable ease.
The nature of the pitch and the size of the ground, of course, worked tremendously in favour of the bowling-type of each of the four bowlers who starred for India at the Manuka Oval. But combined figures of 7/100 from 16 overs, irrespective, is nothing to scoff at –and let’s not forget that the World Cup on which everyone is training their guns, in less than a year’s time, will be played in India.
While the batting, as mentioned above, is crying out for a change in strategy, India’s bowling unit shows enough promise to build upon in 2021.
A familiar failing for Australia
Chasing 159 in Port Elizabeth in February this year, Australia needed 35 runs off 28 balls with eight wickets in hand. South Africa won by 12 runs.
Chasing 163 in Southampton in September this year, Australia needed 39 runs off 35 balls with nine wickets in hand. England won by two runs.
Chasing 162 in Canberra on Friday, Australia 108 runs off 78 balls with 10 wickets in hand. India won by 11 runs.
It ought to be a deeply-disturbing trend, especially with a World Cup in India less than a year away, and a deeper dig into their batting numbers should make the point amply clear to the Australians.
Since the start of their home summer of 2019, Australia have played 13 T20Is. Their top-order batsmen (#1-3) average nearly 50 in this period, while scoring 8.56 runs per over. At an almost polar opposite, their middle-order batsmen (#4-7) average under 20 and score 7.16 per over.
Messrs Finch, Warner and Smith are firing just fine; Australia desperately need the Maxwells and Henriques and Wades (and/or others) to start delivering.
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