Seven Indian batsmen have amassed 399 runs, two are compiling hundreds, two more have scored half-centuries, three have a strike tally of more than 160.
By the time Suryakumar Yadav put on the afterburner towards the back of India’s innings, a mood of jubilation swept the dugout. Head coach Rahul Dravid and batting coach Vikram Rathour grinned at something they spotted on the field. Perhaps they were relishing the agony their charges heaped on the Australian bowlers. Centurions Shreyas Iyer and Shubman Gill were giggling, perhaps remembering the good times they had in the middle.
It looked like one of those days, one of those pitches, one of those bowling attacks, where they just stepped up to the middle and played their shots that flowed off their bats like an unstoppable stream. Of the seven Indian batsmen who came to Indore, two completed hundreds, two others amassed half-centuries, three had a strike tally of more than 160; only one, the grossly unlucky Ruturaj Gaikwad, who did not get rid of the game with a solitary semi-unplayable ball, scored less than 100 runs. In an unrelenting barrage of boundaries, 31 fours and 18 sixes were hit, Cameron Green ended the runaway run of 103 runs. He got a breather as he was just 10 runs short of being the most expensive bowler in the format. India posted 399, the target reduced to 317 in 33 overs, but Australia were so deflated that they were bowled out for 217, giving India an easy series win.
But none of the numbers capture the sheer ferocity of the Indian batsmen, especially without Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. Or the sheer intimidation they wielded, or the deafening amount of hostility they generated. So much so that you could see the outline of a thickening halo around this pack of batsmen. It was the impression of immobile forces, the collective damage they could cause, blades as sharp as a Damascus sword.
The skills on display were infuriatingly deep and layered. Gill was both silk and sledgehammer, playing the fiddle and beating the drums. He essayed the weakest of cover runs, then stepped out and battered the medium pacers down the ground. Some of them, like left-hander Spencer Johnson, hit 140 km/h but looked like 120 km/h trundlers. He had an abundance of both time and space; both skill and will. His fifth hundred of the year was probably his smoothest as well, as he ruthlessly pounced on a dizzying bowling attack – it must be said that one of Australia’s pacers was a debutant; remainder second string; the field was flat. But even then it was the most ruthless dismantling of an international bowling attack in recent times.
However, he was locked in a race for milestones with Iyer for most of his innings. Unlike Gill, Iyer is yet to cement a place in the final eleven after returning from injury caused by the layoff. The two previous outings had fetched him 17 runs and with Yadav and Ishan Kishan in rampage mode, he had to stake his claim again. But this knock wasn’t so much about making his case as it was about nailing down his spot. The ecstatic celebrations when he reached his hundred — the Virat Kohli of his mid-20s in rapture — showed what the knock meant to him.
A sense of anger raged throughout his knock – could be a larger metaphor that fits the Indian innings as a whole. It was an Indian batting unit that wanted to show its aggression and ambition. There was something quietly wild about both Iyer and India. On the very third ball of the innings, he threw his hands at a full and wide ball from Johnson and pulled it over cover. Two balls later he flicked the ball onto the stumps through mid-wicket with a wicked wrist whip. Those two shots spoke volumes for his mood and within no time he had faded to 32 off 17 balls. A period of patient accumulation followed, though by then Gill was shifting gears without friction. This was perhaps the only phase where Australia did not feel the collective onslaught of their batting.
But a period of calm—relative calm—soon gives way to the storm of the frontier. Gill leapt out of the ground and smoked Johnson flat over the head to ring in his half-century for a six. He plundered Adam Zampa for back-to-back 6s and 4 balls to set the pace before swinging Matthew Short for another six in the next over. India were not even halfway through their quota of overs and the total was already hurtling towards 200. In the 30th over, Iyer secured a return to form with a hundred; three overs later Gill too reached the milestone. They would both leave soon, but Australia Day would just be awful.
Their 200-run stands gave the middle-order the freedom to wreak havoc on Australia’s numb and stinging bowlers. Ishan Kishan struck and flicked with his usual nonchalance; KL Rahul munched huge sixes. One of them, a tow truck, was dismantling the solar panel on the roof. But Rahul’s 51 and Kishan’s 31 were all doomed to oblivion by Yadav’s unbeaten 72 off 37 balls. This was more like the Yadav of the T20Is, an uninhibited player whose canvas could be as surreal as otherworldly. Among the six shots that flew over the rope was also a flirtation with the legendary six sixes in the over. From the 45th through Cameron Green, he hit four off the first four balls but could only manage a single off the sixth over.
While Yadav proved his versatility with a careful knock in Mohali, it is because of the Indore-like carnage that he is persistent with in this format, despite meager returns. He was in full swing, swinging, whipping, scooping, cutting and blasting through every imaginable gap in the field.