India will start their international engagements in 2020 with a three-match T20 series against Sri Lanka. India’s focus this year and the next will be on winning at least one, if not both T20 World Cups (Australia 2020 and India 2021). It can be safely said that T20 is India’s weakest format and after the heady win in South Africa in 2007, they have struggled on the world stage.
TOI takes stock of the team and analyses what it needs to stand a chance Down Under:
FINDING A REPLACEMENT FOR SHIKHAR DHAWAN
Shikhar Dhawan’s low strike-rate in T20Is has been an issue for some time now and when he was out injured, India benefited in a strange way as KL Rahul took the spot and batted with refreshing fearlessness and variety. While Dhawan is a match-winner in the ODI format, he is not an automatic choice anymore in T20Is. In 2019, he has scored just 272 runs in 12 innings at an average of 22.66 and a strike rate of 110.56. The selectors need to start casting their net wider to look for a third opener. A closer look within the squad can help them find a player named Sanju Samson, who has been curiously underused.
Virat Kohli is India’s key batsman in the shortest format of the game.
SPREAD THE TOP-ORDER AROUND
India are in the process of traversing the same path as they did in the 50-over World Cup. All their big ammunition is stocked up at the front with little firepower to follow. The strategy unravelled spectacularly in the World Cup semifinal against New Zealand and the same could happen in Australia too. Rahul/Dhawan, Rohit, Kohli at one, two and three, looks spectacular, but India depend heavily either Kohli or Rohit batting for at least 15 overs to make a big score or chase it down. The middle-order of Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey and Rishabh Pant have not been tested enough and this is the right time to do that, even if it means losing a few games. Kohli sending in Shivam Dube at No. 3 at Thiruvananthapuram against West Indies ahead of him was a brave move and there is need for more trial and error approaches.
GET KUL-CHA BACK ON THE MENU
Do you need bowlers who can bat or bowlers who can take wickets? India separated the finger-spin twins of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the white-ball format because they were deemed ineffective by the team management after the Champions Trophy and played Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. The duo has played together in 10 T20 matches and have featured in eight wins. On bigger Australian grounds with steady breeze, they could be a massive factor. The skipper though is loathe to play them together and instead chooses to bank on the batting exploits of Washington Sundar to complement Ravindra Jadeja’s all-round skills. But on flatter tracks, wrist-spinners can be game-breakers in T20s and the sooner Virat realises this, the better.
FIND BUMRAH’S BOWLING PARTNERS
How much the team values Jasprit Bumrah was seen when BCCI President Sourav Ganguly intervened and stopped him from playing in the Ranji Trophy. His comeback after stress fracture of the back will be celebrated. But with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Deepak Chahar injured, who will share the new-ball with Bumrah? Can Navdeep Saini be effective? He seems to struggle while bowling in the death overs. Left-arm seamer Khaleel Ahmed, once spoken of as a certainty even in the ODI World Cup, has been unfairly dumped. Shardul Thakur too has not set the world on fire yet. The ‘sore’card among pacers is getting longer and India have nine months before the World T20 to set that right.
TACKLE THE PANT CONUNDRUM
Rishabh Pant’s talent is well known. Sadly, so is his impetuosity. The big-hitting wicket-keeper-batsman has been testing the patience of the team management and his fans with his injudicious strokeplay in white-ball cricket. The constant scrutiny seems to have affected his wicketkeeping and DRS judgement too, as he has grassed regulation chances and has either not asked for a review or asked for it when the batsman has been not out. Virat has publicly backed his Delhi teammate, but how long can he ignore the gulf between potential and performance?
MIDDLE-LEVEL MANAGEMENT AND POWER-HITTING
Without Hardik Pandya, the team lacks a power-hitter in the middle-order. His absence though gives India a chance to groom someone for that role. If Shreyas Iyer takes up the No. 4 role, can Manish Pandey be trusted to give that finishing kick? Shivam Dube has shown glimpses of his talent but that was at No. 3. In a situation where the team needs to score at 15 runs an over, he is not yet tested. Basically, India need a Buttler-like batsman at No. 6 in Hardik’s absence.
Source : timesofindia