So India could not cap a successful Trans-Tasman trip with victory in the T-20 series in New Zealand. They lost by a narrow 2-1 margin in a contest between two evenly matched sides but there were a few gains. And perhaps the biggest gain was the sudden discovery of a number of utility players so very important in limited overs cricket.
One of the reasons behind India’s unexpected triumph in the 1983 World Cup was that the team had a number of these bits and pieces cricketers – players who could contribute a bit both with bat and ball. Kapil Dev, Roger Binny, Madanlal, Mohinder Amarnath and Ravi Shastri constituted a more than useful quintet and even a cursory glance at the scores of that triumphant campaign will illustrate how these players were in the thick of action one way or the other.
Looking at the current T-20 squad one is encouraged by the presence of players like Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Kedar Jadhav and Vijay Shankar. All of them fit in aptly in the category of utility players. In the batting order they are also floaters in that they can go almost anywhere depending on the situation. And they also chip in more than usefully with the ball either keeping the runs down or picking up the odd wicket. Vijay Shankar for example was promoted to No 3 in Sunday’s game and top scored with 43.
Hardik of course has been around for some time now and has established himself in both the ODI and T-20 squads besides playing eleven Tests with moderate success. Krunal Pandya has played only nine T-20 internationals but has impressed as a highly competitive cricketer. Besides he has an excellent record in the first class game and List A cricket. Kedar Jadhav who turns 34 next month has been in and out of the ODI squad but with a batting average of 43 and a bowling average of 31 from 54 games his credentials cannot be overlooked. Vijay Shankar is the latest entrant having made his T-20 debut last year and his ODI debut only last month but even though he has played only four ODIs and eight T-20s he has already impressed the experts with hit utility skills. The discovery of so many bits and pieces players augurs well for the future for they are essential in the limited overs game.