Only KL Rahul exhibited some resolve and crafted a 55-ball 74.
The old problems resurfaced again as India lost their 2nd practice match against Western Australia by 36 runs on Thursday. Though a few prominent names such as Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav were not in the playing XI for the match, it is still a huge blow to India before the T20 World Cup kicks off.
Indian captain Rohit Sharma opted to bowl after winning the toss and the left-arm seamer Arshdeep Singh removed the wicketkeeper-batsman Josh Philippe in the second over. But Indian bowlers failed to capitalise on the early breakthrough as D’Arcy Short and Nick Hobson joined forces to consolidate the innings.
India’s most experienced bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who is going through a bad patch, once again could not cut the mustard and went wicketless. He bowled decently with the new ball but didn’t look menacing. He was given only two overs and wasn’t used during death overs because of his recent abysmal record.
All-rounders Hardik Pandya and Deepak Hooda also came a cropper and failed to make an impact. India sorely missed Jasprit Bumrah who has been ruled out of the T20 World Cup because of injury. Their problems are severely compounded by the poor form of Bhuvi. Hence, India’s pace attacks look middling at best right now.
Meanwhile, Short and Hobson stitched up a 110-run alliance for the second wicket and the latter was particularly audacious as he walloped four sixes. Short was a tad circumspect early on but reeled off a few nifty shots once he was set. Both of them fell in quick succession after notching up their half-centuries.
While Hobson was nipped out by Harshal Patel for 64, Short was run-out for 52. The off-spinner R Ashwin bowled with a perceptible bite and scripted India’s comeback with three wickets. Harshal also bowled a fine spell and claimed two scalps. Their splendid spells restricted Western Australia to 168-8 in 20 overs.
If seamers flattered to deceive, India’s batters also failed abjectly. In fact, India never looked in the hunt during the chase as wickets kept tumbling like a pack of cards. Only KL Rahul exhibited some resolve and crafted a 55-ball 74 before falling to Andrew Tye in the 19th over. The second highest scorer after Rahul was Hardik who managed only 17 runs off 19 balls.
There is no doubt that India’s middle-order will be bolstered with the return of Virat and SKY in the playing XI but the questions over Pant’s form are firmly intact. Hardik’s failure, of course, isn’t a worry since he has been in sparkling touch in 2022. But India’s lower middle-order is undeniably brittle and can be their undoing in important matches.
Before their first match of the T20 World Cup against Pakistan on October 23, India will play two warm-up matches. The selectors are likely to name Mohammad Shami as a replacement for Bumrah in the squad. It is exceedingly important for seamers to find their groove before the main tournament begins.
India’s fortunes will hinge a lot on how their seamers perform in the tournament. At present, the zing and sting are conspicuous by their absence.