VVS Laxman has pointed out that the fifth bowler option was India’s weakest link in the first Twenty20 International against Australia at The Gabba, Brisbane. India suffered a heartbreaking 4-run defeat in the T20I series opener.
In his column for the Times of India, Laxman wrote, "India's long tour of Australia got off to a cracking start, even if the result didn't go in favour of the visiting side. It was important that the first match of ten internationals was a closely-fought affair, and Australia will take heart from their narrow win in the rain-affected opening T20 game in Brisbane."
Glenn Maxwell (46 off 24 balls) and Marcus Stoinis (33 off 19 balls) played blistering knocks and guided Australia to 158/4 in a rain-marred contest which was reduced to 17-overs-a-side. The revised target for the Men in Blue was 174 in 17 overs.
Despite Dhawan’s sublime 76 off 42 balls and Dinesh Karthik’s breathtaking cameo (30 off 13 balls), India finished agonizingly short on 169/7. Adam Zampa was the stand-out bowler for the visitors, picking the crucial scalps of KL Rahul and Virat Kohli in his 4 overs by conceding only 22 runs.
Laxman heaped praise on Maxwell who top scored for the Aussies.
"While Adam Zampa rightly took home the man of the match award, it was Glenn Maxwell who set Australia on the right track with a blazing innings. Australia have invested long in Maxwell, placing a lot of faith in the X-factor that he possesses. It is time Maxwell returned the favour. Wednesday's was a sparkling knock, and if Maxwell continues to embrace a certain degree of consistency, Australia will continue to be a potent limited overs force throughout the white-ball fixtures," Laxman asserted.
The former India batsman also hailed Kuldeep Yadav, who picked up two wickets in the match and the Australian batters found it difficult to read his deliveries.
"Not for the first time, Kuldeep Yadav served up a visual delight. It was obvious that the Australian batsmen had great difficulty reading him, especially his wrong 'uns, and that's good news for India given that Kuldeep also figures in the Test squad. However, the bogey of the fifth bowler continues to haunt Virat Kohli's side. Especially with Hardik Pandya currently unavailable and no other bowling option among the top-six, Virat can be severely handicapped when even one bowler has an off-day. On Wednesday, both Krunal Pandya and Khaleel Ahmed took serious tap," Laxman opined.
He felt that Indian players had a bad day in the office and one shouldn’t read much into it.
"While it is just one game, it is always prudent to have at least another bowling choice, which I am sure the think-tank will consider ahead of Melbourne. India were also shoddy in the field and a few catches went down, though I don't think we should read too much into that," he wrote.
Laxman did not agree with India’s batting order pointing out that skipper Virat Kohli should have batted at the No. 3 position instead of KL Rahul.
"I am not sure, however, if KL Rahul should have batted at No. 3, ahead of Virat. I know India followed a similar pattern in England in the summer, but at the time, KL was coming off a brilliant IPL and was in sensational touch. He hasn't been at his best, however, in the last couple of months, so I would have liked for Virat to come in at No. 3, especially in a stiff chase. The best batsman in the side must face as many balls as possible in T20s, so my choice at the fall of the first wicket will always be the captain," he concluded.
(With TOI inputs)