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“His numbers of 335 runs from last seven games at average close to 48, speak volumes of the improvement he has shown and is confidently putting forward his candidature for a middle-order spot in the World Cup”

I am not a big fan of the slam-bang style of entertainment provided by the T20 Leagues which have mushroomed up all over the cricketing scene but they, sometimes, do come really handy in liberating a player of his shackles.

When a batsman hits a rough patch, there is increasingly high scrutiny of his game which can make his life even more difficult as he will consistently play with the fear of being dropped from the team. In such a situation, a good T20 game and especially a domestic one can really do wonders to the confidence of the batsman in question who can express himself freely as there is no fear of being dropped which ultimately aids in a huge bolstering of the confidence. An apt example of this is Peter Handscomb.

Handscomb was having a really troubled time in the grinding Test series against India where he managed just 68 runs from the four innings of the first two Tests before being dropped from the team. “Cricket is still a fickle game and one has high and lows during a career. To get dropped from the Test team and now pushing my case for white-ball cricket and this century is good for me,” said Handscomb after scoring his maiden ODI hundred against India after a record run-chase of 358 in Mohali.

Also read: Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja rejuvenate Australia in ODIs

Surely, his career has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows so far. He first broke into the Test side as a talented youngster having a technique of his own. His technique, which involves a deep-crease stance and an angled back-lift, attracted a fair share of criticism which was largely based on the premise that it was highly unlikely that he can have a long successful run at the international level with this kind of technique. His ODI career painted a really sorry picture with just 11 appearances in more than two years since making his debut in January 2017.

An international team plays to win, and in that pursuit, it simply can’t carry a burden as there are always better players waiting to get a crack and when you don’t score a fifty in 11 Test innings you are bound to become a burden on the team which the selectors at some point will be forced to take off in order not to compromise the team’s winning chances. A similar harsh-call gave Handscomb the time he needed to identify and rectify the flaws which were hampering his progress in the national colors. An important figure in this self-assessment was Chris Rogers, ex-Australian opener whom Handscomb turned to help him with the technique.

 “I have been working on my technique with Chris Rogers since the last one year, and felt I lost my straight drive and cover drive prior to that. We worked upon the basics and going back to some things in my technique.”

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Those hard yards in the backyard with Rogers eventually proved to be quite fruitful as Handscomb made an authoritative comeback by first breezing through a 70-odd Big Bash inning for his franchise and then by topping the run-charts for Victoria in the 2018-19 domestic One-Day Cup which saw him belting 361 runs from seven innings at a batting average of 51.57 while striking the ball at 94.75. These were impressive numbers which immediately paved way for his return to the national ODI fold for the ODI-leg of India’s tour to Australia. The three matches there saw him score two fifties, finishing with a tally of 151 runs from three ODI innings.

However, the most authoritative statement of his abilities came when Australia needed it the most. For a chase as daunting as 358, Australia needed someone to score big and Handscomb put his hand up for the battle. He stroked 117 runs from 105 balls to lift Australia from the dire state of 12 for 2 wickets early in the innings to a position of belief that the steep target can actually be chased. When he finally departed off the bowling of Chahal, Australia needed 88 runs from the last 53 balls – a target which was dwarfed by the scorching brilliance of Ashton Turner who applied the finishing touches to the chase.

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What was particularly impressive about this knock was Handscomb living up to his reputation of being a good player of spin which is believed to be the biggest threat on the subcontinent pitches. Overall, he faced 64 deliveries from the three spinners deployed by India i.e. Chahal, Kuldeep and Jadhav, and was able to milk a princely 87 runs from them. Though he was assisted by a stumping fumble by Rishabh Pant, he played a controlled inning to keep his team in the hunt.

His nimble footwork allowed him to play the ball near its pitch which helped him in piercing the gaps in the field, helping him control the required run-rate. He didn’t eat too many dot balls even in the middle phase of the chase and always tried to push the inning forward to reach as close as possible to the Indian total.

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These are bright signs for the Australian team. The maturity and control showed by Handscomb at the crucial number 4 position – one that India has been grappling with since ages, sit perfectly well in the Australian scheme of things for the World Cup. A mix of caution along with measured aggression is what Australia needs in its middle-order and Handscomb provides just that.

His numbers of 335 runs from last seven games at average close to 48, speak volumes of the improvement he has shown and is confidently putting forward his candidature for a middle-order spot in the World Cup. As of now, Handscomb is doing just the perfect thing to keep him in the right frame of mind – revelling at his maiden ODI hundred.

“I am pretty happy about today’s knock. I had a stop-and-go start in ODI cricket and getting an opportunity at such a stage means that you have to take it. It was nice to get a hundred today in tough conditions. It feels special.”

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