India look to fine-tune squad ahead of T20 World Cup
- A total of 30 players have represented India in T20Is over the past 22 months, and Dube may just become the 31st on Sunday.
- India have lost 6 of 16 games batting first since January 2018.
- India, the world's top Test team and second-best ODI team, are ranked a relatively middle-of-the-road No. 5 in T20Is.
NEW DELHI: Much like the Delhi weather, India's plans for next year's World T20 are still a bit hazy. There's space for new faces at the top, middle and lower order but above it all looms the need for a finisher, meaning MS Dhoni's invisible presence still casts a long shadow.
As seasoned campaigner Rohit Sharma - he will become the most capped Indian T20 player on Sunday - readies to lead India on Sunday at the Ferozeshah Kotla, TOI takes a look at some of the talking points...
Dube for Pandya?
He's 26, and touted to be the next big hitter. In the recent Vijay Hazare Trophy, he had a strike rate of 146.28 and an average of 88.5. He can bowl some medium-pace too. With Hardik Pandya out injured and MS Dhoni AWOL, India need a big hitter to finish off games. A total of 30 players have represented India in T20Is over the past 22 months, and Dube may just become the 31st come Sunday.
Captain Rohit's take: "Shivam came into the ranks last year. He made his mark just before last year's IPL auction, which is why people were so keen to buy him. One (among Shivam and Sanju Samson) might definitely play."
Rishabh Pant might blow hot and cold but his place is not under threat yet. That was the message from the team management a day before the game, meaning Sanju Samson's presence is intended more to make Pant look over his shoulder. Pant's strike rate of 159.94 in all T20s (including IPL) is well above Samson's 126.48, and he has a higher average (33.76 to 27.48) too. However, Samson just scored the fastest List A double-ton by an Indian batsman, so can he wriggle in purely as a batsman?
Captain's take: "Sanju has been performing quite well in the domestic circuit and IPL. All doors are open for everyone… but there's a lot of time left before you pass judgment on Rishabh. We just need to back him a bit more."
Setting, not chasing targets
India have lost 6 of 16 games batting first since January 2018, meaning their winning percentage of 62.5% is comparatively less than the 76.47% games they have won chasing in that period (lost only 4 out of 18 chasing, with one no-result). Naturally, the team is keen on improving that record, so they might deliberately bat first, never mind the conditions, a few times before Australia next year.
Captain's take: "We have looked at certain numbers and stats when it comes to chasing and also posting targets. Our numbers are very good when we chase, whether it's in India or outside India. Something we really want to focus is on posting targets and defending them. That's where we are lacking."
India, the world's top Test team and second-best ODI team, are ranked a relatively middle-of-the-road No. 5 in T20Is, and this rankles. They want to climb up the ladder fast, and T20 is a data-analysing, number-crunching nightmare in which the perfect formula is perfectly elusive. India's method, as Rohit Sharma said, will be to do their "homework" well. But their time is limited.
Captain's take: "I am pretty sure (we are No. 5). I do my homework. We need to get that number higher. We want to be at the top in all three formats."
India's recent philosophy has been to try and eliminate the tail in T20Is, meaning the pure leg-spinners went out of the picture against the West Indies and SA. But without Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar and Jadeja in a home series, it may be time to return to Chahal. But who among pacers Khaleel and Shardul Thakur will partner Deepak Chahar?
Captain's take: "You have to make sure that whatever little opportunities you get, you make the most of it. That is the challenge of international cricket. You will not get exactly what you want. You will have to work your way, you will have to earn that position."
Rohit Sharma is no stranger to leading in this format. So while it's only a temporary stint, expect him to introduce some of his own philosophies. He corrected himself once while talking about Bangladesh ("they beat us, not upset. They are a very, very good team"), and may not be averse to some course corrections if he feels like it.
Captain's take: "I am not a regular captain so my job is to take the team forward from where Virat has left. There are certain thought processes with the team that is going on right now. I just want to carry that forward. That is my job."