Eyebrows were raised when Avesh Khan was chosen to bowl the last over in front of Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the second T20 against West Indies, which India lost by 11 runs. Erring on his front foot, a no-ball produced a six and the game was done and dusted, giving the West Indies their first win over India in three years.
Asked why Avesh was entrusted with the role, Indian captain Rohit Sharma said: “We know what Bhubi does for us because he has been doing it for a long time. You never find out. Unless you have guys like Avesh and Arshdeep. Don’t give them a chance to prove themselves. But it’s just a game. They already have the necessary knowledge and skills, so the next step is to support them.”
Less than 24 hours later in the third fixture of the game, Avesh struggled again. He conceded 47 runs at 15.66 from three overs, which took another dent in his short international career so far, raising questions about his quality at the highest level.
West Indies batsmen tend to enjoy pace and Avesh made them do just that in the third match and paid dearly for it. He also bowled a length and runs were taken. In contrast, Bhuvneshwar Kumar took regular pace, and bowled behind the length; Arshdeep Singh bowled back off length either full or pace off and was able to control the batsmen to some extent.
In the last five T20s, Avesh has conceded 17.4 runs in 5.2 overs without a wicket: 0 for 14, 0 for 19, 0 for 11, 0 for 20, 0 for 12 (2 balls) and 0 for 17. In a T20 innings with at least two overs. He now has the highest economy rate by an Indian pacer – 15.66 runs per over in today’s game.
The pitch, which saw the second T20I game, was expected to be a bit tougher to bat on. West Indies held on in the middle overs but some big hits from Shimron Hetmyer towards the end gave them a total of 164 runs. India then continued their aggressive batting approach and Suryakumar Yadav led the chase from the opening spot and set it up perfectly. Slow pitch, Rohit Sharma injured with back spasm after retirement.
Suryakumar was clinical in the middle, showcasing his batting skills. He scored 76 runs off 44 balls with 8 fours and four sixes. Suryakumar stepped up from the start, and with a brilliant partnership of 86 off 59 balls with Shreyas Iyer, he paved the way for a successful chase which was completed in 19 overs.
Rohit saved India’s struggle against the left-arm angle, and the West Indies added another left-arm option by bringing in Dominic Drakes for the third game. India’s top-order has recently struggled against the likes of Shaheen Afridi, Reece Topley, David Willey and Obaid McCoy in the second T20I.
It didn’t make much difference to Suryakumar, who kept the runs flowing and the boundaries coming. It didn’t matter that both teams had less than 24 hours to recover from the delayed start in the second T20I. It didn’t matter that Rohit left the field not even two overs into the chase. What matters is that even in such a hamstrung situation, Suryakumar has the ability to navigate through the obstacles in front of him and his team. While Suryakumar is India’s luxury, opposite Avesh poses a major problem for India, as they have many chances to concede before deciding their squad for the T20 World Cup.