A refreshed India side, led by stand-in skipper Suryakumar Yadav, gave its faithful something to cheer about mere days after the full-strength version lost the ICC ODI Cricket World Cup 2023 Final against Australia. Taking on an equally altered Australian team, India won four of the five games of the bilateral series, failing only to succeed in Guwahati. (As It Happened | Scorecard | Cricket News)
Surykumar guided India from the front in Visakhapatnam, scoring 80 crucial runs as the Men in Blue chased down a big Australia target to take the lead. Propped up by half-centuries from Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan, and Yashasvi Jaiswal, India went 2-0 up in Thiruvananthapuram, successfully defending a 235-run total in front of a jubilant crowd. Denied a third successive, and potentially series-clinching win in Guwahati - during which the hosts succumbed to a Glenn Maxwell-led Australia fight-back, up until the last ball of the match - India remained calm and ultimately confirmed the inevitable in Raipur. The victory in the finale in Bengaluru, as it happens, merely added flourish to a triumphant week for the young Indians.
The contest now concluded, we look back at three players who stood a tad bit taller than the rest through their consistently impressive displays. Here are three Indian players who shone in the T20I series win against the Aussies:
"There is no doubt that Rinku Singh is a contender for inclusion in India's T20 World Cup squad," said former Indian pacer and the current coach of Gujarat Titans, Ashish Nehra, ahead of the fifth T20I. Hardly an unknown commodity coming into the series - his Indian Premier League 2023 heroics making sure of that - Rinku Singh only strengthened his position as the next young star to break into the national side by delivering successive sensational displays against Australia. A spot in India's T20 World Cup squad, as Nehra says, is more than a possibility for the power-hitter from Aligarh!
Singh wasn't the most prolific batter from team India in their bilateral series against Australia, but few would deny that he wasn't the most effective. His appearances often restricted to mere cameos, the 26-year-old entered the crease with purpose, showcasing, when provided the opportunity, his devastating ability to hit the ball out of the park, no matter the circumstances. An example of the same was his brief showing in the second T20I in Thiruvananthapuram, where he hit 31 off just nine balls - a total that included four fours and two sixes.
Sri Lankan spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan was waxing lyrical about Ravi Bishnoi on the eve of India's fifth T20I against Australia. Bishnoi, who had picked up seven wickets in four games before then, had been a revelation for the Men in Blue, helping them effectively stunt the Australian middle order on more occasions than one. "India have always had a good, uh, set of spin in every generation. You see from Anil (Kumble) to (Ravi) Ashwin to now the young guys who have come. Bishnoi is different from any other leg spinner than any other ones," he said.
Name-dropped by a cricketing great, Bishnoi lived up to the biling, claiming another two wickets in the fifth T20I for just 29 runs. For his performance across the series, the 23-year-old picked up the Player of the Series trophy, presenting, if slightly prematurely, the Indian selectors with another major headache for the T20 World Cup to come.
Ruturaj Gaikwad's rise has been nothing short of meteoric. Having already impressed with the bat in the Indian Premier League, where he plays for Chennai Super Kings, Gaikwad led India to an Asian Games gold medal earlier this year and was named Suryakumar Yadav's deputy for the first three matches against Australia; it is clear that those high up in the Indian cricketing set-up value Gaikwad significantly. If there were any lingering doubts about Pune-born batter's ability, however, they were quelled through the bilateral series against Australia in which he finished as the highest run-scorer. Gaikwad scored 223 runs in total, which included an outstanding ton in the loss in Guwahati, and was top of the leaderboard in terms of boundaries scored.
Gaikwad sees his path blocked into the Indian senior team by figures more senior than him, a situation which asks for a watchful eye considering the rumours surrounding some of those individuals. But, with performances likes these becoming a frequent occurrence, he will back himself to squeeze in before the T20 World Cup 2024 arrives.