After winning the Test series 4-0 and the ODI series 2-1, India finds itself 0-1 down in the three-match T20 series. What could be worse? Going 0-2 down and playing for mere pride? It could come to that, and going by the first T20 match at Kanpur, which turned out to be a walk in the Green Park for England, the visitors appear to be far more suited to the format.
While the hosts have a far better hang of the nuances of the one-day format, when it shrinks to 20-over cricket, they seem to have left their soul in their twin World Cup wins.
While India has almost completed the shift from Test cricket to ODIs, the reluctance to shrug off their ODI baggage in T20s is still a work in progress.
Rishabh Pant had earlier hammered a 36-ball 59 in the second warm-up game between India A and England. AP
Recognising neither Ajinka Rahane nor Shikhar Dhawan cut it, is a start. But can they stick with the decision? No reason not to, won’t be long before T20 mainstay, Rohit Sharma is back. Between Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma, you have three picks for the opening slots right there.
Next button to consider pressing, a break from England for Kohli. The Test series started on 9 November 2016. We’re now at the end of January. Even though there were three weeks off for Christmas, it’s been one long mission for Kohli. While England shifted from Alastair Cook to Eoin Morgan, and even both Ashwin and Jadeja have had a break from England, Kohli sahab is left to continue hosting them.
And he’s been a good host at that; gracious in defeat, and admitting to being 30-35 runs short. But how much can one man do? If you’re Kohli, a fair bit. It now appears the captain is already in ‘express myself’ mode. Warming up to the format, he’s set to abandon some of the non-stop-intensity of his cricket — and play much, much more in the air, especially as he’s opening the batting.
But that’s the catch — can Kohli be both attacker and sustainer through the 20 overs? Unlikely. Kohli aside, is there anyone to sustain the big hitting against these sharp lengths that England has warmed up to since the Eden Gardens’ ODI?
It’s a good time to see, who, if anyone will step up in Kohli’s absence through the 20 overs. After all, when he doesn’t score big, the team can look pedestrian to say the least. A one-man team really.
Kohli will not take a break from the team but it’ll be good if he continues to play the format rather than think it’s his sole job to bat out 20 overs. Kohli has to look at striking at 150 on top of the order, and he has enough discretion to be picky about his shots.
Next button — address Rahul and his inability to go beyond 8, 5, 11 and 8 in his last four innings against England. The most he’s been at the crease has been three overs. Kohli aside, he’s one of the bigger hitters on top. With the current team, one of the openers has to look to bat through — and it’s time for Rahul to step up and set his captain free.
Next, press the Amit Mishra button. Mishra was picked for two Tests against England, didn’t figure in the ODIs, and didn’t play in the Kanpur T20. This is a case of mixing up formats; Mishra is now a far more resourceful limited-overs’ bowler, a veteran of sorts, than he is a Test bowler, the format in which he tends to struggle in Ashwin and Jadeja’s shadows. Journeymen T20 spinners are priceless, a leg-spinner even more so.
Next, press the jugular button — India’s quicks or spinning part-timers are unlikely to win them matches. But spin can. Go in with three spinners and open the bowling with one.
The only way to counter England’s rocking openers is to counter them in equal measure — starting with spin will toss Jason Roy and Sam Billings a dare, one they will feel compelled to take. One which is out of their comfort zone. If it means picking one seamer less, so be it.
Inroads with spin early on could bring part-time spinners Raina and Yuvraj into play later.
As in 2007, so too in 2017, T20 is a young man’s game. Do everyone a favour and press the Rishabh Pant button. Not for just the last match, but the last two matches.
It’s high time to add to the Mad Max hitting of Hardik Pandya. To paraphrase Tennyson, “Tis better to have hit and lost than never to have hit at all”.
Why do you think it’s the only format the West Indies are champions in?