Bhuvneshwar and Hardik star; Ruturaj and Pant flop for India in a mixed-bag T20I series against South Africa￼
After losing the first two T20Is fairly easily, it appeared that the Proteas would hand stand-in captain Rishabh Pant a whitewash in his first major assignment as captain. However, the Indians stuck to their starting XI and won the next two T20Is by margins of 48 and 82 runs.
Batsmen Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, and the returning Dinesh Karthik were in fine form, while seamers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harshal Patel used their variations and control to keep India in the game.
The final and series-deciding T20I in Bengaluru was called off after less than four overs, leaving both teams with a lot of positives and some issues to work out.
India fielded the same playing eleven for the entire T20I series, thus giving a sense of assurance and stability to the second XI who were part of the squad. Here, we rate how every Indian performed in the five-match T20II series against the full-fledged Proteas squad –
Ishan Kishan – 8.5/10
The Indian opener had a terrific series against South Africa after a disappointing Indian Premier League campaign this term. He was the top-scorer of the series having accumulated 206 runs from five matches at a mind-boggling average of 41.2. Not only did he score runs but he did so at a brisk pace having a strike rate of 150.36.
This performance of his not only helped the Indian team alleviate some pressure in the series but also gave them their stand-by opener for the upcoming T20I World Cup in Australia.
Ruturaj Gaikwad – 5/10
An opportunity lost for the talented opening batter who scored mere 96 runs from five games at an average of 19.2 and an okayish strike rate of 131.5. Once regulars like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul return he will find it almost impossible to break into the playing XI in any format.
Shreyas Iyer – 5/10
The Mumbai batter failed to cement his spot in the middle order of the Indian T20I set-up after having a mixed performance with the bat in the just-concluded series against the Proteas. The skipper of the Kolkata Knight Riders team managed to score 94 runs from five games in the series at an average of 23.5 and a strike rate of 123.68.
He anchored the innings well in the first two games but failed in the next two when the series was on the line. He might thus get squeezed out of the XI if Suryakumar Yadav returns to full fitness.
Rishabh Pant – 4/10
Captaining the Indian team for the first team, Rishabh Pant failed with the bat and lacked urgency. He scored only 58 runs from five games, at a poor average of 14.5 and a disappointing strike rate of 105.45, getting out to wide deliveries throughout the series that has raised quite a few eyebrows on the player’s selection for the upcoming World Cup in Australia later in the year.
However, he remains positive about his form but will feel the pressure after Dinesh Karthik’s spectacular comeback.
Hardik Pandya – 8/10
Hardik Pandya has had a tremendous couple of months. First leading Gujarat Titans to IPL victory and then performing against South Africa when serious doubts were raised about his place in the Indian white-ball setup. The dynamic right-handed batter scored 117 runs from four innings in the just concluded T20I series at an average of 58.5 and a strike rate of 153.94.
With this performance, he has guaranteed his selection for the upcoming World Cup in October later this year. Although his batting performance has justified his place in the Indian T20I team, he bowled five expensive overs across three matches, which took some sheen off his final report card.
Dinesh Karthik – 9/10
Another player who has had a terrific season is Dinesh Karthik who has done exactly what was asked for by the team management. He scored 92 runs from four innings in the series at an average of 46 and a mind-boggling average of 158.62.
Coming into bat at the tail end of the innings, he scored quick runs in the last five overs. In fact, his maiden fifty in the all-important fourth T20I helped India level the series that vindicated his selection. His tale is truly one of persistence and belief, and he will be a vital cog of the Indian team that will be selected for the T20I World Cup.
Axar Patel – 5/10
Axar Patel had a golden chance to become the preferred all-round spinner with Ravindra Jadeja out. However, he was expensive in the first two matches before pulling things back in the next two.
He scalped mere three wickets from the four games he bowled at an economy of 8.25. He also scored 13 runs with the bat, which means the glass is half full at best. This means that he would be out of contention for a place in India’s World Cup squad later this year.
Harshal Patel – 8/10
Harshal Patel was pretty expensive in the first T20I and that was his over that paved the way for South Africa’s win in that game. He, however, kept his cool in the next three to keep the scoring down and picked up wickets.
In fact, he went on to scalp seven wickets from four games including a four-fer in the third T20I. Bowling at an economy of 7.23, his variations remained the best by any Indian bowler in the death overs of the series.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar – 9/10
Having been adjudged Player of the Series after going for over 40 in the first T20, he brought back his ‘A-game’ in the next three games to single-handedly trouble the Proteas both in the Power Plays and Death Overs.
He scalped six wickets in four games at a mind-boggling economy of 6.07 and became almost unhittable when he got going. Also being a reliable batter down the order, India will be hoping he remains fit for the T20 World Cup.
Avesh Khan – 7/10
Although he remained wicketless in three of the four T20Is against South Africa, Avesh Khan impressed one and all by bowling tight lines and lengths while also bowling plenty of dot balls in the series.
He scalped four wickets in the series at an economy of 7, the only ‘fast’ bowler for India in the series as Umran Malik did not play a single game, Avesh was decent even when South Africa scored 212 in Delhi. Altogether, he had a solid effort throughout the series.
Yuzvendra Chahal – 6.5/10
Yuzvendra Chahal was absolutely a waste in the first two games of the series but came back strongly in the last two matches although he remained a tad too expensive. He finished the series with six wickets under his belt from the four innings he bowled, leaking 8.18 runs per over.
Given he had a fantastic IPL season and is a pure bowler, one would have expected better returns. However, having the backing of the team management, he is expected to come back strongly and definitely be one of the first-choice players to book their tickets for Australia later this year.