New Delhi: India marked the end of Ravi Shastri’s tenure as head coach, as well as Virat Kohli’s reign as T20I captain, with a comprehensive nine-wicket victory over Namibia, in the first cricket match between the two countries since the 2003 Men’s ODI World Cup in Pietermaritzburg.
The win was achieved on the back of a dominant performance from India’s two most experienced white ball spinners — R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja — who picked up three wickets each.
With an 86-run partnership in their first 10 overs, openers Rohit Sharma and K.L. Rahul then put to bed any remaining resistance from the Namibians, also known as the Eagles.
Spinners bring bright Namibian start to halt
On a benign Dubai pitch that was offering little assistance to pacers, Namibia’s Stephan Baard and Michael van Lingen once again proved to be the best possible opener combination for head coach Pierre de Bruyn and assistant coach Albie Morkel to build on for the future.
For the second straight match, the Eagles openers surpassed the 30-run mark inside 4 overs, with Baard hitting a stylish six-over long on off Mohammad Shami’s bowling.
However, just like in their 52-run loss to New Zealand, a mini collapse and a drastic drop in run rate followed the first wicket for the Eagles as Ashwin and Jadeja worked in tandem to extract enough turn to deceive the middle order who had no answers to the scoreboard pressure.
While Jadeja’s stumping dismissal of veteran Craig Williams was one such example of guile and deception, it was surpassed by Ashwin’s old-school off spin, getting wicketkeeper Zane Green out bowled on his first ball.
India’s poor fielding
The most glaring negatives, however, of India’s performance, were the uncharacteristically poor fielding and the 17 extras conceded during the first innings, perhaps indicative of the dead rubber nature of the contest from an Indian perspective.
Namibia, however, upped their scoring intent and aggressive running between the wickets wherever possible, targeting twos and forcing Suryakumar Yadav and substitute Ishan Kishan, in particular, into fumbles and misfields, as well as a missed run out from Jasprit Bumrah.
Amid the impressive bowling from India, the likes of Ashwin either strayed too far down the leg side on occasion or bowled too wide, relieving the pressure on the Namibian lower order who rebuilt their innings from 47-4 near the halfway mark to reach 132, scoring off edges, bunts and mishits on numerous occasions.
Rohit-Rahul opening pair a must for 2022
By far India’s brightest spot from a batting perspective in their three wins has been the recovery in form of openers Rahul and Rohit.
Having recorded abject failures against Pakistan and New Zealand, the pair delivered a near-perfect powerplay for the third game in a row, with Ruben Trumpelmann the only Namibian to create wicket taking opportunities with his tight left arm pace.
It is a no-brainer that incoming head coach Rahul Dravid and his staff must persist with this opening pair, if India are to offer any form of a title challenge in the 2022 Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia
However, with a crowded international calendar over the next 12 months including crucial World Test Championship and ODI Super League fixtures, the goal for Dravid and Co. should be to strike a balance between building a more consistently world-class T20 lineup while managing the workload of India’s all-format players like Rohit and Rahul.
Brief scores: Namibia 132-8 (David Wiese 26, Stephan Baard 21, Ravindra Jadeja 3-16, R. Ashwin 3-20); India 136-1 (Rohit Sharma 56, K.L. Rahul 54*, Jan Frylinck 1-19)