Somebody, very soon, is going to pay for Virat Kohli’s twin failures on the just concluded sojourn in Ireland. The Indian skipper, a fierce competitor by nature, flopped for the second time in as many outings when he fell for nine runs on Friday.
Since England are India’s next opponents that somebody expected to bear the full wrath of Kohli’s bat would naturally be them. They were already wary of Kohli’s prowess but his two failures would have put them on red alert. For Kohli, arguably the best batsman in world cricket, brings to the table awesome talent combined with fierce pride and determination. There is no doubt he will be raring to go and make up for the failures in the next lot of matches.
There were no such compulsions for KL Rahul, another gifted cricketer who is expected to be the flag-bearer of Indian cricket in the not too distant future. The hapless Irish got a taste of his special talent when he made light of their bowling and his own limited match practice with a pulverising 36-ball 70 (3x4, 6x6). This substantive knock would surely have put him in the right frame of mind for the tougher challenges ahead.
India’s decision to rest four key players — Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Shikhar Dhawan — was obviously prompted by the need to provide a useful stint in the middle for others in the touring party.
Barring Dinesh Karthik, who did not get to bat but enjoyed a good outing behind the stumps, all the others, Rahul, Umesh Yadav and debutant Siddarth Kaul, quickly hit their straps, much to the chagrin of the Irish.
The Ireland team was never expected to be challenging opponents for India. They gave ample proof that they had a long way to go before they could compete on level terms with the best teams in the business.
For India, short of match practice as a team, the two matches gave them an excellent opportunity to fine-tune team spirit, teamwork and camaraderie.
That the 143-run victory was their biggest in T20Is in terms of runs was only incidental. It improved on their previous best margin of 93-run win, scored over Sri Lanka last year, but fell short of the world record of Sri Lanka’s 172-run win over Kenya in 2007.
The ease with which the spinners, Yuzvendra Chahal (3 for 21) and Kuldeep Yadav (3 for 16) swept away the home team batsmen after new ball bowlers Umesh Yadav and Kaul did their bit was ominous.
It marked the duo as the men to watch out for, English conditions notwithstanding. The two wrist-spinners are a rare breed in world cricket primarily because their instinct is to go after the batsmen.
Unlike most spinners who try to bowl defensive lines, Chahal and Yadav are always on the prowl, even when they get hammered around occasionally. They are at the batsmen’s throat, coaxing them to make that risk-laden shot by offering well tossed-up, beguilingly-spinning deliveries.
The duo will be the key through the rest of the tour as their aggressive, wicket-taking attitude unusually challenges rival batsmen to have a go at their bowling. In this, they mirror the batsmen’s approach to T20 cricket.
The Irish felt the full blast when Chalal and Yadav prised out batsman after batsman with ridiculous ease. Chahal, declared Man of the Series, was at his bamboozling best, mixing straight deliveries with ones that turned enough to get past the bat.
The poor Irish, unused to this line of attack, were seemingly caught in a vice when Yadav from the other end also unleashed his bag of tricks.
It took little more than a dozen overs for the Irish and everyone else in world cricket to understand that this was a series between unequal teams.
India, though, won’t be complaining. They have got some invaluable match practice and have also been put in the right frame of mind for the England leg of the tour. Now just the small matter of Kohli putting rival bowling to the sword remains. That should come very soon.