India’s 2022 T20 World Cup campaign got off to a good start with a six-run victory over Australia after the hosts lost four wickets in the game’s penultimate over, which signalled Mohammed Shami‘s incredible comeback after playing his last T20I almost a year prior.

India struggled in the middle overs before trying five different bowlers in the opening five overs, while KL Rahul and Suryakumar Yadav helped India to a solid 186/7 total.

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Thanks to captain Aaron Finch’s 54-ball 76, Australia was in charge of the chase. In the final over, when the hosts needed just 11, Rohit Sharma played his trump card and called Shami from the dugout. 

With England’s match against Pakistan coming up, Shami was serving drinks to the batters and chatting with all-rounder Moeen Ali, giving off the impression that he would be sitting out the match. Rohit had different plans. 

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Having to defend 10 runs off the final over, Shami conceded four runs off the first two deliveries before Kohli took Cummins out with a spectacular one-handed catch in the deep. The following ball, Shami ran Ashton Agar out.

Two yorkers were delivered next, the first knocking Josh Inglis’ stumps loose as he was on the verge of collapsing, and the second cleaning up Richardson’s off-stump. 

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“This was always the plan,” Rohit later claimed. “Honestly, he is coming back after a long time. So we just wanted to give him an over. This was always the plan from the beginning. He comes and bowls at the death. We know how lethal he can be with the new ball. We just wanted to give him a little bit of a challenge, coming and bowling that death over and we saw what it was.”

Does this spectacular performance from Shami and the fielders signal the end of death over woes for the Indian team? Or was it a one-off fluke? With the pressure of an actual match, outside the comfort of a warm-up game, would the Men-in-Blue still be able to hold on to their nerves? 

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Barring the exception of Shami, Indian pacers proved to be expensive on the Gabba pitch on Monday. Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, and Hardik Pandya registered economy rates of 11.30, 10.00, and 9.70 respectively, with Harshal and Singh picking a wicket each.

Statistically, the status of the entire Indian bowling lineup does not look particularly promising. Aside from that last over, the most economic bowler of the day was Ravichandran Ashwin who conceded 28 runs in four overs. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, perhaps had the most-balanced performance, having picked up two wickets while maintaining an economy rate of 6.70.

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The Gabba pitch is one where pacers frequently enjoy rolling their arms because it provides them with good, consistent bounce and carry, particularly in the beginning. The batters also enjoy this pitch for the same reason—they can trust the bounce and play the shots, and the good outfield adds incredible value to their shots.

The bowling unit has come under intense scrutiny since the Asia Cup, but it is important to evaluate its performance in light of the difficulties it overcame, particularly at home against Australia and South Africa. The majority of stadiums featured flat tracks, quick outfields, and short boundaries, which significantly favoured batters.

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One can tell there is no room for error when they witness even decent balls being hit for boundaries. The reality that even Australia’s and South Africa’s more skilled attackers struggled to have an impact under the circumstances cannot be ignored.

However, this does not mean that the Indian bowlers should be excused from all the follies they have made in recent outings. Some are innate, while some are tied to the execution or rather, non-execution of ideas.

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India appears to have found a perfect batting lineup but has been struggling to find the same with their bowlers, their death over performance being a particular worry amongst fans and critics alike. Skipper Rohit seems unbothered by the issue.

“The team wants to play and bowl in a certain way and we want to give them that confidence. Yes, we have not bowled well at the death in the last five or six games. We are doing the same to the opposition as well,” Rohit said in the post-match presentation of the second of the recently-concluded 3-match T20I series against South Africa.

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“To bowl and bat at the death is very tough. That is where the game is decided. It is not concerning, but we need to pick ourselves and get our act together,” he added.

After Monday’s warm-up game, however, Rohit said, “It was a great practice game for us. There is room for improvement, but I want more consistency from the bowlers. You need to keep things simple and hit the deck hard.”