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KL Rahul's rise, and death-bowling support for Jasprit Bumrah

Five takeaways from India's 5-0 whitewash of New Zealand

Ankur Dhawan
After India's 5-0 whitewash of New Zealand in the T20I series, ESPNCricinfo identifies the major takeaways for the visitors.
Handling of pressure
Perhaps the single most important differentiator between the two sides was their attitude in pressure situations. India embraced it like an old friend, while New Zealand allowed it to dictate terms, and eventually the course of the series.
Before the Super Overs madness, there was a chase of 204, which could have been a lot more if the bowlers hadn't held their nerve to pull it back in the last three overs, which went for just 25. In the chase, India lost the set pair of KL Rahul and Virat Kohli within eight balls of each other to expose an inexperienced middle-order. But playing his first overseas T20I for India, Shreyas Iyer took them home with a fifty from No. 4. He followed that up with another match-winning knock in partnership with Rahul, when India were set a modest target but had lost Rohit Sharma and Kohli early.
As the matches got tighter, India found different ways to conjure wins. But it was less magic trick and more stubborn resistance, refusing to throw in the towel even when a New Zealand win seemed a foregone conclusion. When Jasprit Bumrah had a bad day, Mohammed Shami first and later Sharma saved the day in Hamilton. Shami defended three off five when New Zealand had wickets in hand, and Sharma deposited two into the crowd when the equation was ten needed off two in the Super Over.
In Wellington, there were two occasions when India were gone for all money. Manish Pandey and Shardul Thakur dug them out of an 88 for 6 hole to help post a fighting total, before Thakur starred with the ball again to take the match into another Super Over with next to no runs to play with in the final over.
The final T20I epitomised India's superior handling of pressure, as they came on to defend a seemingly sub-par 163 without their captain, who was rested and the stand-in captain, who had injured himself while batting. Rahul was the stand-in captain for the stand-in captain, and he and his young team caused the hosts to panic with early wickets that included a run-out. Even though it looked like New Zealand had gotten out of jail with a counter-attacking stand between Tim Seifert and Ross Taylor that at one stage brought the equation down to 48 off 44, India hung in there believing that one wicket could be the harbinger of another meltdown. From 116 for 3, New Zealand slumped to 133 for 8, with both Seifert and Taylor back in the hut, and along with them their chances of a solitary win.
Death-bowling support for Bumrah
Martin Guptill quipped after the second T20I that New Zealand needed India's premier bowler to have three bad games in order for the hosts to come back into the series. Funnily, he seemed to have thought it into existence as Bumrah had a rare off day in Hamilton. It's true that India's fielding let them down, and cost Bumrah a wicket and a few runs, but it was only the fourth time in T20Is that Bumrah conceded in excess of 40. Shami stood up with nine needed from the final over on that occasion.
Thakur stood up in Wellington, with support from Navdeep Saini, who only conceded four in the penultimate over to give Thakur an outside chance in the last over with seven to defend. Thakur himself had conceded just eight in the 17th as the cliché of each run saved contributing to a win came to life.
Finally, In Mount Maunganui, Thakur and Saini again bowled three of the last four overs, giving away 24 runs for three wickets, one of them of a set Taylor that virtually sealed the match. Essentially, pacers other than Bumrah went for a total of 64 runs in nine overs at the death (16-20) picking up seven wickets between them, ensuring that New Zealand had more than just Bumrah to worry about.
Rahul - the three-dimensional man
A hint of Schadenfreude was in play as Rahul took over keeping duties to cover for a concussed Rishabh Pant in Mumbai. Since the ODIs against Australia where he impressed with his wicketkeeping skills, so much so that he was picked ahead of Pant for the decider in Bengaluru for which Pant was fit, Rahul seems to have become No. 1 choice for the role even in T20Is.
While he has averaged in excess of 50 with the bat in his last ten innings in the format, Rahul is not only thriving in his new role for India, but seems indispensable to the side now. He finished the T20Is as the highest run-getter, for which he was named Player of the Series. In addition to the dual role that has been identified for him, he also had a shot at captaincy in the final T20I in Mount Maunganui, underscoring his exponential rise in Indian cricket.
Yuzvendra Chahal: silent but deadly
Perhaps not the stand-out performer but a silent one, nevertheless. Wickets eluded him, but he kept things tight, often bowling at least one over in the Powerplay or one at the death, and occasionally both. Plus, when he did pick up a wicket, it was a crucial one. For example, the one of Kane Williamson in the first match in Auckland.
Williamson had looked set to take the game away from India when Chahal was called upon to bowl the 17th. Things did not go immediately to plan as 13 were taken from the first five balls. But Chahal was still prepared to gamble as he threw one out wide with all his heart and induced a false stroke from the New Zealand captain. After his wicket, New Zealand managed just 25 from the last three overs and India won the match with an over to spare.
Overall, Chahal went at 8.35 an over, not at all unimpressive for a legspinner on these pocket-sized outfields. Besides, it wasn't as though as he was truly taken apart in any of the matches, his poorest returns 1 for 38 in Wellington and 0 for 28 in Mount Maunganui his best. It meant that his captain always had control when Chahal was handed the ball. Chahal also improved upon his economy-rate from the last time he toured New Zealand for T20Is when he went at 9 an over.