Hard as bouncing back from defeat in a World Cup final is, the performances of India’s young brigade in the first two T20Is against Australia should provide some solace. Whether it is the lower order pyrotechnics of Rinku Singh, the explosive opening from Yashasvi Jaiswal or the growing stature of Tilak Varma in the middle order, what the series — never mind the absurdity of one so soon after a taxing ODI World Cup campaign — is establishing are the exciting options at India’s disposal going into next year’s T20 World Cup. With the calendar hurtling along at relentless pace, these matches may not register in the mind of the fatigued viewer, but the selectors and the team management will be taking note.

Discussions of this nature are bound to crop up when players in India’s second-string team come to the fore(PTI)

But to what extent? If Jaiswal and Ruturaj Gaikwad keep performing well in the opportunities presented, should they be preferred over Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill at the top of the order? Will Rinku and Varma find places in the middle order when Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul are also available for selection? How does leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi, who has taken four wickets in two matches, stack up against, say, Kuldeep Yadav or Yuzvendra Chahal?

Discussions of this nature are bound to crop up when players in India’s second-string team come to the fore. Caveats are of course necessary – the Australians are also not fielding their first-choice eleven and the first two games of this series have been on flat decks suitable for belligerent strokeplay. But if Jaiswal, Gaikwad, Rinku and Varma – just to name a few in India’s vast talent pool — are being considered capable of slotting into India’s strongest T20 team, it’s because they have offered more than just flashes of their talent in recent months.

Jaiswal was the fifth-highest run-getter in the IPL this season – he scored 625 runs in 14 games at an average of 48.07 and a strike rate of 163.61. In the process, he even overshadowed Jos Buttler, often outscoring his senior partner during their fast-paced opening stands for Rajasthan Royals. While translating IPL success into performances at the highest level isn’t straightforward, Jaiswal’s international career took off almost instantly, smashing an unbeaten 84 against West Indies in just his second T20I. Considered to be more geared towards the longer format when he first rose to prominence in the 2020 U-19 World Cup, Jaiswal has shown the range of an all-format batter. It should be noted that he made a 387-ball 171 on his Test debut in July.

In the second T20I in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday, the 21-year-old cracked 53 off just 25 deliveries as India raced to 77 in the first six overs. There were sweeps, lofted drives and power-packed pulls in Jaiswal’s enterprising knock, enabling just the sort of beginning that India will be seeking in the Caribbean next year.

“It was really special for me. I was trying to play all my shots, be fearless, take bowlers on. I was fully sure with my decisions,” Jaiswal said after the match on Sunday. “I have been told by (captain) Suryakumar (Yadav) and (coach) VVS (Laxman) bhai to express myself. I always think of how I can improve myself around experienced players and nothing else. Still learning.”

If Jaiswal sparked the opening onslaught, the finishing fillip was provided by Rinku. He clobbered four fours and two sixes in nine deliveries, taking India to 235/4. The 26-year-old is just seven T20Is old, but a breakout IPL season with Kolkata Knight Riders – his 474 runs in 14 matches at a strike rate of 149.53 included pulling off a heist against Gujarat Titans with five sixes in the last over – has gone a long way towards highlighting his prowess in the death overs. Furthermore, he’s striking at 199.49 in overs 16-20 in T20Is this year, better than any Indian batter.

Very few are able to combine a vast hitting range with the unflappable temperament needed to succeed in these situations. As Rinku has revealed, advice from MS Dhoni seems to be coming in handy. “As for my secret to calmness, I had discussions with Mahi (Dhoni) bhai about what he does to stay calm, especially in the last over,” Rinku was quoted as saying in a BCCI video after victory in the first T20I against Australia.

Varma has also evoked awe with moments of brilliance in his fledgling international career. With his game blending elegance and power in the right doses, Varma has impressed to such an extent that he’s seen as a fulcrum of the Mumbai Indians middle order for the next decade. In the past two seasons, Varma, 21, has aggregated 740 runs in 25 IPL games at a strike rate of 144.53, earning the plaudits of Sharma and former India coach Ravi Shastri among others.

“I’m very impressed with Tilak Varma. Whether it was for Mumbai Indians, for India, whether it was handling pressure, opposition, or different situations of the game, he has ticked all the boxes for someone so young. When it comes to shot selection, when it comes to the range of shots, and the ability to be unorthodox, he has everything,” Shastri had told Star Sports in August.

Still, India’s top players, who may be resting for the T20 series against Australia, will invariably be in the fray for the T20 World Cup. Simply by virtue of their top-notch track record, built over years of consistency and exposure to different situations. When Mitchell Starc is charging in at full tilt with the new ball in hand, can you discount Sharma’s calibre? When 30 runs are needed from two overs against two top death bowlers, would it be Rinku or someone more experienced that you would want on strike?

Ultimately, the selectors will have to strike a balance. Because while you always want big names to flex their muscle for a big event, you also have to reward fresh faces making a strong case series after series.