India vs Hong Kong: KL Rahul’s lack of intent under the scanner, Jadeja’s contribution crucial yet again

When KL Rahul blasted a free-hit ball over deep midwicket for a six, it was a little big moment for him: breaking free of the self-imposed shackles. But the highlight was what followed. A fan at the stands nonchalantly cupped his palms the Aussie way to pouch the ball and … didn’t throw the ball into field of play. Instead, he whipped out his phone, took a selfie with the ball prominently in the frame, before urged by the people around him, he finally relented to get the ball back in play.

If he gets a big one, Rahul might remember that six as a special turn-around moment but more than him, it’s that fan who has a ‘I was there’ moment safely stored in his phone gallery. (Sriram Veera)

Wide ball of the century!

Had Steve Harmison been watching the game between India and Hong Kong he would have been haunted again by the wide-ball of the century he bowled in the 2006-07 Ashes opener in Brisbane. So wide that the ball eluded the keeper, the first slip and crash-landed at the second slip.

Or he might have felt a trifle relieved, or even had a chuckle, or could have even empathised with the bowler. For Hong Kong seamerHaroon Rashid produced a ball so wide that it landed on the practice pitch beside the centre pitch. It was an attempted slower ball—off a free hit as he had over-stepped when deliveringthe previous ball—that slipped out of his hand, floated and drifted outward and made a slow landing like a drunk bee.

As the ball landed outside the pitch, it was deemed a no-ball. Haroon smiled sheepishly, as the teammates converged to commiserate him. (Sandip G)

Haroon’s nightmarish over

Before the game against India, Hong Kong pacer Haroon Ahmed was used to playing the Little League. Oman, Nepal, Jersey were the kind of teams he had faced. One game against Ireland couldn’t have given him the experience to deal with the best of white-ball batters, the icon of the world’s biggest T20 league – KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma.

After his first over, where he conceded 5 runs, he wouldn’t be faulted to fancy himself a pacer of international quality. And then came the nightmarish 8-ball over where he conceded 22. Rohit and Rahul hit a six each but it was a “widest of wide” ball – the first bounce of which was where second slip could have been – that stood out.

For the two Indian openers it was just another game, Haroon would want to forget this outing pretty soon but there were a couple of fans who will cherish the memory of this game forever. As a Rahul six sailed in the stands, the ball landed into the hands of two youngmen. While the Hong Kong players waited for the ball to return, they took selifes with the ball. (Sandeep Dwivedi)

Rahul should have hit another six: Gambhir

It’s the 9th over and India’s run rate hasn’t picked up. On the third ball KL Rahul makes a sweet connection, it’s a graceful effortless strike to the cow’s corner. Fans are celebrating the rare six. Finally, Rahul seemed to have judged the pace of the pitch and the frustratingly slow Hong Kong bowlers right.

The next ball too is pitched on the line and length, Rahul knocks the ball and jogs across the pitch. The pundits watching the game aren’t impressed. Leading the charge is Gautam Gambhir, sitting East Delhi MP who also is Lucknow SuperGiants mentor, the IPL franchise that Rahul leads.

Gambhir says Rahul should have attempted to clear the boundary again as he was well set. He mentions how modern-day batters like Liam Livingstone would have gone for a second six and not gift the strike to their batting partners. He says that the days of openers batting deep till the 15 overs were behind us. In this T20 format, you are in the business now. How true it proved to be, Rahul made 36 from 39 balls and was out at the end of 13 overs. He should have gone for the second successive six. Rahul should know Big Brother is watching. (Sandeep Dwivedi)

Rahul’s crawl

Even by KL Rahul’s standards, it was a crawl. The opener had only one attacking shot – a six off a free-hit – in the Powerplay, against Hong Kong. Rahul has returned to the Team India fold after an injury-forced layoff. In the first match at the Asia Cup, against Pakistan, he got out for a duck.

He is allowed a bedding-in period. All said and done, though, such lack of intent, against an Associate nation, defied logic. Rohit Sharma went on the attack mode from the outset and scored at a 160-plus strike rate before he perished in the fifth over.

India’s KL Rahul is bowled out by Pakistan’s Naseem Shah during the T20 cricket match of Asia Cup between India and Pakistan, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Rahul took his time and laboured to 16 off 20 balls after six overs. India’s Powerplay score was a modest 44/1, which might not matter in a game against Hong Kong, but against tougher opponents, such slow burn could be counter-productive. Rahul eventually fell for 36 off 39 deliveries. He has a good record in T20Is – 1,831 runs from 57 games before this fixture. More often than not, however, he scores his own runs in this format. (Shamik Chakrabarty)

Ehsan Khan or Hong Kong ka John Traicos

An aging, accurate and disciplined off-spinner with the skill to bowl yorkers at will. He also has sharp features and a wily mind. Hong Kong’s 37-year-old spinner Ehsan Khan has so many attributes that reminds one of Zimbabwe great John Traicos, the legend of the 80s. Remember the frail and stingy off-spinner with the guile to regularly come up with ’10 overs 20 plus runs’ spells against the best teams in the world. Ehsan is a throwback when it comes to tactics.

He doesn’t give the batter space to swing their arms and foxes the batsmen in the air. In his spell he tied the Indians in knots. In his third over, the 17th of the innings, he gave away just 4 runs. And that too when Virat Kohli and Surya Kumar Yadav were at the crease. Most of his balls in the over were darted at the shoelaces. And when Surya was anticipating a yorker, Khan threw it wide and full way outside off but stayed within limits.

In his final over, the 19th of the innings, India’s IPL stars managed just one six. His final ball of the spell was a dot ball to Kohli. That and his figures of 4-0-26-0 against India would be something that Khan’s grand kids would have to hear forever. (Sandeep Dwivedi)

Can’t keep Jadeja out of action

Trust Ravindra Jadeja to turn an adverse situation his team’s way, be it with bat, ball or in the field. After playing a crucial role with the bat in the win over Pakistan, the all-rounder gave another example of his exemplary qualities in the other two departments of the game.

He affected a run-out on a free hit from Arshdeep Singh – when no other mode of dismissal was possible. He nailed a direct hit from point to find Nizakat Khan short when he had taken a couple of steps down the pitch before aborting the run. Hong Kong had made a decent start to the chase and even though it would be an exaggeration to say the Indians would have been worried at that stage, the underdogs were well in the game when Jadeja intervened.

He then chipped in with four typically thrifty overs, returning figures of 1-15 to ensure the outcome. All in a day’s work for one of the premier all-format all-rounders in contemporary cricket. (Tushar Bhaduri)

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