India vs South Africa, 2nd T20I: India's focus stays on 'players on trial'

The Times of India

The Times of India

Author 2019-09-18 18:31:00

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  • India take on the visitors in the second game of the three-match series today in Mohali
  • The first game in Dharamsala was washed out without a ball being bowled
  • India's major worries centre around an unsettled middle order, as the team management tests young talent for the job
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MOHALI: Indian skipper Virat Kohli has recently ruffled a few feathers by saying about five matches is all a player should ideally expect to get to prove himself. This has led to obvious questions: What's a good number of matches to judge a player? What's an ideal number of matches for a player to prove his worth?

Indian cricket at the moment is debating these two questions, even as team management is planning for the next objective: T20 World Cup in Australia next November. The ongoing series against South Africa is the first step towards that. With the first T20I in Dharamsala washed out, the series begins here for India, and for many players in the team, Kohli's statement has put them on trial.

So it was no surprise to see Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul, Krunal Pandya and Hardik Pandya hit the nets within hours of touching down in the city. Rahul and Pant put their heads down and worked on the basics, not playing the cheeky scoops or the big hits for most part of their hour-long stint in the nets.

Hardik kept talking to Pant from the adjacent net, trying to calm him down. After the nets, new batting coach Vikram Rathour and Hardik had a long conversation with Pant. It looked like an animated discussion from a distance, and lasted for a good 10 minutes with Rathour even patting the 21-year-old’s temple and pointing towards the extra-cover region.

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“They (Kohli and Ravi Shastri) may have said five matches but I am sure there’s not going to be a specific number. What they were trying to say is you need to take the opportunities when you get them,” Rathour tried to play down the statement on the eve of the match.

“These boys have played so much cricket, coming through the system, I don’t think it will be an issue. The management will be supporting them. They are tremendous cricketers. I am sure the kind of opportunity they will get, they will come good,” he added.

South Africa T20I skipper Quinton de Kock, who is also been tasked with the job of rebuilding the team after a disastrous World Cup, looks at going about his job with a more open mind. “I don’t think I can put a number on it. It varies for every person. Some people can take one game, some even 10 games. You will never know,” was de Kock’s take.

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Even as India dominated most bilateral limited-overs series for two years leading to the World Cup, one could sense that the unsettled middle-order was an accident waiting to happen. Eventually, India ended up with three batsmen in the squad who didn’t even play 10 ODIs before the World Cup.

Manish Pandey, for one, was part of the trial and error process for two years. He would be the first one to raise his hand for not getting a decent run. Opportunities for him came in patches. He’s back in the mix again and the ‘five-match benchmark’ won’t be an easy headache to get rid of.

And then there is Pant, who is turning out to be a critic’s delight. Perhaps, nobody battles perception more than him in Indian cricket at the moment. Shastri has literally put him on notice with his ‘need-of-rap-on-the-knuckles’ statement.

Rathour tried to soften the blow. “Pant needs a little more discipline. All the youngsters need to understand that there is a fine line between fearless cricket and careless. It’s the same for Pant. We don’t want to change his way because he can be devastating. We just ask them to be fearless not careless,” he rolled out the team’s mantra.

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