The men’s international season is now well and truly underway, brightening up some bleak English winter mornings for me. Here’s five talking points from the first and second ODIs between Australia and India.
The month of January saw India play some great cricket in the limited-overs internationals against Australia and New Zealand.
The comeback series win against the Aussies gave cricket fans a short but sweet three ODI series to remember. A big loss in Mumbai followed by two great games by India to win the series briefly reminded me of the 2001 Test series between these two champion teams.
However, the main focus for the India team in 2020 is to build a team that will have the best chance to lift the World T20 cup in Australia. Let us see where India is at this moment.
Indian team strategy
The ongoing series in New Zealand has given strong evidence that the captain wants a team that has six bowling options. It is heartening to see that Kohli has realised this folly of his while building the team for the World Cup in 2019.
However, I am not convinced in his choice of personnel among these six bowling options. Shivam Dube seems to be a limited stroke maker and an ordinary medium pace bowler. He is not a match-winner in either of his skills. I don’t think this Indian team has a place for such a player.
If Hardik Pandya returns on time, he will take Dube’s place. If not, I would still pick a wicket-taking Navdeep Saini in place of Dube. Picking wickets is the surest way to win T20 matches.
Bowlers win cricket matches
With KL Rahul donning the wicket keeping gloves, the Indian team has a rare chance to field a team with five high-quality batsmen, four wicket-taking bowlers and two reliable all-rounders. Most of the commentators remembered how Rahul Dravid’s donning of the gloves gave the 2003 Indian ODI team great balance.
However, that team did not have a quality fifth bowler who made the team vulnerable on occasions. But, the current Indian T20 team fields six bowling options, all of them good enough to pick wickets at any stage of the game. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Saini, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Pandya and Shardul Thakur represent an outstanding bowling combination when compared to Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh plus journeymen bowlers to fill in the rest.
Batsmen aren’t far behind
Indian World cup team of 2019 had an Achilles’ heel in its No.4 batsman and its middle-order batting in general. KL Rahul’s outstanding batting form and adequate wicket keeping have provided Kohli with a great chance to play seven quality batting options. Rohit Sharma has taken limited-overs batting to a different level.
Sharma, Rahul and Kohli represent a trio of batsmen who can score at will and win matches on their own. Add to this the new match-winner Shreyas Iyer. If that was not enough, add Manish Pandey, who has found a way to score runs freely once again.
Once you get past these batsmen, there is still Jaddu and Hardik or Shardul in the hut. It’ll be a tough job for any bowling team to keep this batting unit down below 160 to 170 runs in a T20 contest.
Fielding, what was that?
A team that boasts of high-quality athletes like Jaddu, Manish, Kohli and company were very ordinary on the field during the matches in NZ. One would expect them to get their act together in the upcoming matches.
However, there are some not so great fielders among Bumrah, Shami, Shardul and the like in this team, so they may need to pull up their socks.
What can go wrong?
KL Rahul’s fitness will hold the key to this team’s chances in the T20 World cup. It is his all-round ability that has allowed Kohli to have seven batting options and six bowling options play an 11 man sport. It is a rare combination.
Changing topics, what is with this idea of a four-day test?
We had plenty of commentators and players voice their negative opinion of this idea, quite unanimously one must say. Even though I belong to the same camp, I would like to remind everyone that Tests were timeless once upon a time. Up until Steve Waugh’s captaincy era, Tests produced plenty of draws, even with five days to play.
Once that Aussie team set standards on the scoring rate, other teams started to follow suit and boring draws became a thing of the past. Similarly, captains will find a way to force a result in the WTC format, even if ICC reduces the number of days to four.