AHMEDABAD: A mix of favorable results in the present and the search for the perfect combination for the near future will be India’s main concern when they take on a well-rounded England from Friday in a T20 International series of five games.
For skipper Virat Kohli, the main goal is to get an idea of his core group of players competing in the ICC T20 World Championship in October. And he could not have hoped for a better opponent than a world-class English white ball team under Eoin Morgan, ready to be much more challenging on flatter courses that promise a running festival.
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“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to play in the conditions we will play the World Cup in,” England’s explosive batsman keeper Jos Buttler said recently, shaking off the test series debacle.
For Indian Vice-Captain Rohit Sharma, it’s about focusing on the present.
“If we focus on the present, the future will take care of itself. It’s a long series and it’s important to see where we are as a team and as an individual,” said Rohit.
While there are more benefits to having multiple options that are fashionably referred to as the “happy headache” for any captain, there are some pitfalls associated with such a situation. The Indian team understands this very well as they burned their hands at the 2019 World Cup.
It was an event where they didn’t have a set number four until the last moment.
So it will only be fair that Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri decide in their minds who will be Rohit’s opening partner for the mega-event. The choice rests with KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan.
Pure cricket logic and the skills he’s gifted with make Rahul’s pick in any white ball XI play a breeze, but then there’s Dhawan, who was a great player at global events and one of the oldest in the the page.
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If Kohli decides to accept Dhawan, he will have to push Rahul to 4th place as the Bengaluru man’s place in the XI is non-negotiable at this point.
It’s a tough call Kohli has to take as playing both would mean no more room for Shreyas Iyer or the sentimental favorite of Indian fans, Suryakumar Yadav, who will finally wear the India Blues after years of hardship.
The explosive hitting option that one among Shreyas and Surya in 4th or 5th place can offer is very tempting and the team management does not want to miss the opportunity to take advantage of this.
The Motera range will certainly be a flat deck that will fit the shortest format requirement, and with plenty of firepower on either side, the Ahmedabad skyline could see a ton of fireworks on either end.
Whether it’s Vice-Captain Rohit, the indomitable duo of Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya for the hosts, or Captain Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Dawid Malan and Jason Roy at the other end, Kookaburra’s white ball could be in the stands more often than not .
With the unavailability of Thangarasu Natarajan in the bowling department, Bhuvneshwar Kumar will lead the attack again along with another senior Yuzvendra Chahal for society.
With England’s weakness against slow bowlers well documented in these conditions, Chahal could have both Washington Sundar and Axar Patel as companions, leaving Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar and Navdeep Saini in a three-way battle.
For England, the white ball format has versatile cricketers like Stokes, Sam Curran and IPL auction sensation Moeen Ali to start with, who can change the complexion of any game in either division.
With specialists such as pacemakers Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Chris Jordan and wrist spinner Adil Rashid, it will be a competition in which India can never be called a firm favorite.
The next week and a half would be an indication of where the teams are headed in terms of preparing for the marquee event later this year.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vc), KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (week), Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini , Deepak Chahar, Rahul Tewatia, Ishan Kishan (reserve guard)
England: Eoin Morgan (Captain), Joss Buttler, Jason Roy, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Reece Topley, Chris Jordan, Mark Wood, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Sam Billings, Jonny Bairstow, Jofra Archer