India vs South Africa: Men in Blue out to cut long tail short
MOHALI: Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal are among India’s trump cards in the shorter formats. But for the second successive T20I series on the trot, the two find themselves away from the action. A significant strategic shift, considering the team management’s plan to prepare for the 2020 T20 World Cup.The explanation provided by skipper Virat Kohli — after the first T20I was washed out — for this spanned a grand total of one word: batting.
“That was one of the reasons. It’s also to give opportunities to the guys who have done well in the domestic circuit, T20s and IPL. I think it’s about finding the best balance that we can as a side, and not necessarily stick to one kind of combination. If all teams across the world are batting till No 9 and 10, why can’t we?”
The players earmarked for increasing India’s depth without sacrificing bowling options — Krunal Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar — have all given evidence of their abilities with the willow.
Krunal has a formidable strike rate (141.46) and two fifties in domestic T20s (92). He’s been one among IPL’s blue-chip stocks; strike rate of 146.06, highest of 86, and 35 sixes to show that he can clear the ropes with ease.
Despite blipping every now and then, Jadeja has always been on the national radar. His all-round showings forced the team to include him during the World Cup at the expense of the wrist-spin duo. Washington — once a top-order batsman — has a fifty to his name in domestic cricket and a strike rate of 118.28. He’s even scored a ton in Tamil Nadu Premier League.
All three need no introductions, bowling-wise. Even the other new entrant in the squad, Rahul Chahar, is not your typical lower-order bunny; he has a first-class fifty. This excess of all-rounders clearly reflects India’s plan to shorten their tail to No 9 and downwards (assuming that they go for three pacers, including Hardik Pandya).
“We are fortunate to have so many all-rounders in this team,” said batting coach Vikram Rathour. “Most of them can bat. In the past, we did not take T20s seriously. But now we are preparing for the World Cup. These 20-21 games are very important.”
They will be, especially when you take into consideration India’s approach to run-making in T20s. India’s top-three — which will most likely not change till the 2020 World Cup — rakes in runs, but lets loose only after consolidation. With Rishabh Pant under pressure and Hardik returning to action after two months, extra finishers is the currency India want to deal in. Not to mention that cushion down the order relieves pressure up top.
“By batting deep, we can go harder in the beginning. We will be trying different things in the coming series and see what works for us.” If not Dharamsala, then let the new games begin in Mohali.