India have been playing delightful limited-overs cricket for a while now. Their top three are as good as any in the world, they have two of the best death bowlers, and now have two joyful wristspinners too. Before they were stuck in on a damp pitch by Sri Lanka last December in Dharamsala, India had lost just eight of their last 34 ODIs, and nine of their last 21 T20Is. All but five of those defeats were the doing of either a completely flat track that rendered their bowlers ineffective, or a failure of the lower-middle order.
India have addressed that flat-pitch problem to an extent by introducing wristspinners, but there is, on real flat tracks, a concern that India’s batsmen score too few over 300. On tracks where bowling resembles range-hitting practice, India can take time to realise 375 is the par score. It’s not like they lose every game on flat pitches, but it becomes an even bet in those conditions.
So to be competitive against India at the moment, you need absolutely flat batting conditions, where you can out-hit them. The variation from the norm in modern ODI cricket is not likely to be the seaming track but the one that is slightly slower. Over the last two years, India’s batsmen have adjusted to these slow tracks better than anyone else.
When the ball is coming on, there are few batsmen as good at hitting through the line as David Miller or Quinton de Kock. You look at big hitting and innovative shots, especially the ability to hit from ball one, and there is a fear that India are being left behind by some kind of revolution. However, when it is time to adjust your sights according to the pitch, recalibrate the risks, and get totals you can bowl at, India tend to do it better than others. India’s limited-overs cricket is less formulaic. They like to rely on instinct, and not on premeditation, when they bat.
Individuality blooms in India’s line-up. There is a chaser who aims to finish matches with two overs to go, a finisher who relishes the one-on-one environment of the last over, an opener who scores double-centuries after slow starts, and Hardik Pandya who can hit big from the first ball.