• The captain says India will devise a better strategy in the T20s against the Proteas

Improving India’s bowling remains the team’s focus ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup next month, skipper Rohit Sharma has said, adding that he backs seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar to come out of a recent slump.
India went past Aaron Finch’s Australia by six wickets to clinch the three-match T20 series 2-1, and now host South Africa for a white-ball series starting tomorrow.
The team’s batsmen, including Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav, have been in good form and shared a 104-run partnership to secure victory on Sunday, but the final-overs bowling has been a cause of worry.
Kumar, once a champion of choking runs in the final overs of a T20 match, has been expensive lately. He leaked 21 runs in the 18th over in the series-decider, with Tim David hitting him for two sixes and a four.
“We know that he has had more good days than the bad days in the last so many years,” Rohit said of the veteran fast bowler in a post-match press conference.
“Yes, of late it has not been the kind of performance that he wants but that can happen to any of the bowlers. You can see the opposition as well, it’s not easy to bowl in the death.”
The 32-year-old Kumar, who remains a key member of the team’s plans for T20’s showpiece event in Australia, had just two wickets from two matches and an expensive economy rate of 13.00.
Rohit said the team will devise a better strategy in the three T20 internationals against the Proteas to help Kumar return to his miserly ways in the final overs.
“We’ve been working on some execution plans and hopefully we can give him more options to bowl in the death and he’ll be as good as he was before. And he is not short on confidence,” said the Indian captain.
“We want him to come back as quickly as possible because he has bowled those difficult overs in the past. As a team we believe in his ability. Time for us to show that faith in him and keep backing his skill set.”
Pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah and fellow quick Harshal Patel returned to the team from injuries and Rohit said he expected the bowling unit to hit form with more game time.
“Bowling is something that we have a lot more focus on than the batting at the moment,” said Rohit.
“Those three (Bumrah, Harshal and Axar Patel) who haven’t played much cricket in the past are playing now, so you got to give some time to them and get them back (in rhythm) as quickly as possible,” said Rohit.
“It’s just about getting their confidence and with the kind of individuals they are, I don’t think it will be too long.”
Meanwhile Deepak Hooda has been ruled out of the three-match T20I series between India and South Africa.
The 27-year-old allrounder has a back injury and has not travelled with the team to Thiruvananthapuram, where the first game is scheduled to take place.
Also staying on the sidelines is Mohamed Shami, who was due to re-integrate with the India team this month.
The fast bowler tested positive for Covid-19 a few days ago and is yet to recover from the illness, cricinfo.com reported.
The report said that allrounder Shahbaz Ahmed and batter Shreyas Iyer have been drafted into the squad, although it is not yet known if they are replacement players or just reserves.
Hooda only made his international debut in 2022, but has been a regular presence in India’s squads.
His ability to score quick runs and provide a few overs of part-time offspin were seen as assets in terms of balancing the XI. But when India had access to all of their first-choice players - which they did in the recent T20I series win over Australia - he was pushed down to the bench.
It is learnt that at least for the deciding match in Hyderabad on Sunday, Hooda was unfit.
The BCCI is yet to release any detail on the extent of his injury. Hooda was named in India’s 15-member T20 World Cup squad due to travel to Australia in October.