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One dream over, India warms up for another

The thrilling win in Vizag shifts the country’s focus to its favourite format, Twenty20 and the World Twenty20 to be played in the USA and Caribbean Islands in June 2024

Four days after suffering a heartbreak, the Indians fans are dreaming again. The pain of losing the Cricket World Cup 2023 final in Ahmedabad still lingers but there are new aspirations on the horizon – the World Twenty20 to be held in the United States of America and the Caribbean Islands in June 2024.

Fresh hopes were ignited by an exponent of the Twenty20 format, who led a second-string Indian team to a thrilling victory over the same opponents who had humbled them in the 50-over World Cup a few days ago. Suryakumar Yadav (80 off 42 balls) stood tall as India chased down a stiff 208 and humbled Australia to the delight of 27,000-odd fans in Visakhapatnam.

The victory was small consolation for the defeat in Ahmedabad but it helped India to shift focus to a format that it feasts upon – Twenty20. The Indian Premier League has played a massive role in popularising the short format of the game and every season it throws up new players adding to a big pool of players who are ready to don the Indian jersey. Such is the abundance of talent that India can easily form at least three teams in all formats of the game and all three will be able to compete with the best.

A sample of that talent pool was on display at Visakhapatnam last Thursday. Medium-pacer Mukesh Kumar, who had featured in one Test, 3 ODIs and 5 Twenty20 Internationals was among the top bowlers in a match where 417 runs were scored. He did not pick up a wicket in his spell of 4-0-29-0 but he stood out for his economy. In a format where dot balls are gold dust, the 30-year-old from Gopalganj, Bihar bowled 11 dot balls, the highest in the match along with Australian Jason Behrendoff. And more importantly, he bowled a brilliant final over where he conceded just 5 runs.

Another player who stood out was Rinku Singh. The 26-year-old all-rounder has a penchant for finishing matches which he has shown in the IPL and he is carrying that attribute into international matches. He had played just five T20 Internationals, getting an opportunity to bat only two times against Ireland and Nepal, before lining up against the Aussies. The Uttar Pradesh cricketer muscled his way in a tight chase creaming 22 off 14 balls and even hit a six off the final ball of the match but it wasn’t credited to his account since it had come off a no-ball and the match was already won when the no-ball was declared. Rinku’s self-belief as a finisher is admirable and guess who he has modelled himself upon: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the master finisher. The left-handed batter is an ideal player for the format because he is not just a dangerous batsman but he is a brilliant fielder and also a handy off-spinner.

Ishan Kishan too sparkled with a 39-ball 58 and it came on the back of a tough phase for India who were struggling at 22-2 at one stage. The left-handed wicketkeeper batter is relatively more experienced in international cricket having played 2 Tests, 27 ODIs and 30 T20Is but is yet to find a regular place across formats.

Mukesh Kumar

There is no doubt that Mukesh, Rinku and Ishan will definitely be in the mix for the World Twenty20 when the battle for slots intensifies in the coming months. We can expect more such performances from them and other players like Yashasvi Jaiswal, Rituraj Gaikwad, Tilak Varma, Shivam Dube and Arshdeep Singh who will be competing for places with regulars like Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohd Shami and Mohd Siraj.

So what if India lost out on the ODI World Cup, the next six months are going to be as exciting for them as it would be for their supporters as they look to mount a serious challenge in the World Twenty20. Dream on, India!