The incumbent Limited overs Captain with his predecessor
A new era begins....Will it be a refreshingly new one or a repeat of the past
For a long while, England cricket team was chasing after the dream of acquiring a ICC World cup silverware, but the dream failed to materialise until 2019.
Being the country that spread the magnificent game of cricket to many of the countries that it had ruled over its glorious years of supremacy in the 18th and the start of the 19th century, England struggled to win even a single silverware in the sport that it had bred and spread to the world…
But the proud England folks had been forced to swallow bitter pill every time on watching their Limited overs teams get thrashed in one World Cup after the next. And not long after the dismal exit from the 2015 world cup, the grumblings from their fans reached their crescendo.
And then the wiseminds of English cricket sat down to usher in an era of dominance in the Limited overs format... The old ideology influenced by Test cricket was cast away while new ones were embraced for the future… Limited overs cricket was prioritised over the Test format of the game.
As a first step to show their dedication to their fans in taking steps to conquer the unconquerable, they did the unbelievable: they installed a limited-format player as the captain of the English ODI and T20 teams, perhaps for the first time in their history where Test match players were celebrated while looking down on Limited overs cricketers.
Morgan and company should be commended for bringing about a change in the game's limited format. Going from the tag of strugglers to trendsetters in the format was truly commendable.
Gone were the days of fearful cricket, with anchors being given more leverage in the team to coast a rocking ship in unfavourable conditions. In came the new young blood of the British who passionately loved the Limited format as most from the younger generation do… And they took it one step further to oust all the less aggressive players and formed a team that they believed could win the prestigious ODI World Cup to be hosted in their own country after two decades.
To give credit where credit is due, Morgan and his team had conquered the unconquerable, and the temondous achievement of winning the 2019 World Cup would not have been possible without the new era that they ushered in after the disappointing exit in 2015: harsh calls were made to show the door to test specailists while providing a clear definition of roles for new team members...No one would be left out of the side if they played as per the demands of their role, irrespective of their success...
And, whether by chance or happenstance, the Indian cricket team finds itself in the same rocky situation as the England team did following their early exit from the 2015 World Cup...
India has been ousted from the 2021 T20 Worldcup in Dubai in the group stages itself, similar to the English team of the 2015 ODI worldcup.
One era ends....
With so many glaring instances that led to India's ouster after being defeated in not only the recently concluded T20 World Cup, but also during all the ICC tournaments held over the last half of a decade, the Indian cricket board was forced into action.
The Indian cricket team appeared to succumb to pressure or unfavourable circumstances at the final hurdle in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, the 2019 ODI World Cup semi-final, and the 2021 ICC World Test Championship final before bowing out meekly from the recent 2021 T20 World Cup held in Dubai.
As the silverware became more elusive over the years, a whisper spread across the world: Has India joined the South Africans to be the new chokers of this decade? India was gradually but steadily being labelled as the modern-day chokers.
And believe it or not, many ardent fans of cricket all over the world seemed to have rejoiced at India’s defeats because they were irked many times by the most powerful and rich cricket board in the world.
So, it didn’t come as a surprise when BCCI were forced to clip their wings to change the outlook of the Indian team. A team defined by the aggressive image of its talismanic captain, Virat Kohli...
A new era begins...
With all said and done, India finds itself on the precipice of making a decisive change to its cricket... A point in time where they can either usher in a new era of dominance in world cricket like the England cricket team or go the route of sticking with the same ideology that led them to this mess,
England was no longer afraid of losing in bad bowling conditions; instead, they wanted to beat every other country in good bowling conditions...
The newly appointed Indian captain acknowledged the resemblance of the situation being akin to that of the England side when he addressed the media as the full time captain of the T20 team.
He rightly pointed out that India needs to derive its own template depending on its strength if it wants to be successful like the English side of the last few years, instead of trying to use the successful England’s template to win that World Cup that is to be hosted in India in 2023.
But it does not mean that we can’t take some of the successful recipes from England’s template... Lets look at a few of the templates that India can adopt and build its strength around.
T20 Template for the World Cup to be held in Australia.
Many believed that India’s biggest weakness over the last few years was its lack of middle/lower order power hitters in the closing stages of the game, with their purported finisher, Hardik Pandya, facing the worst time in his illustrious carreer, where his position in the team was all but granted until recently.
The biggest thorn in India's side was revealed to be the middle order muddles and stumbles in the recently concluded T20 World Cup, when losing two of the top three batters in the early stages of the game had strangled the rest of the team from playing fearlessly...
None of the top three batsmen seemed to believe that India’s middle order could smash the bowlers at the closing stages of the game like the West Indies duo of Pollard and Russell.
So it seemed that they wanted to play cautiously so that one of the top three managed to stay until the end, where each one of them is mighty dangerous against fast bowlers. It is no secret that these three batsmen relish fast bowlers.
And all the top three batters (Kohli,Rohit,Rahul) have known weaknesses to getting out while trying to smash a leg spinner. And teams generally bring on their spinners in the middle overs to strangle their opposition…
Unfortunately, after the retirement of Dhoni and Yuvraj, India is yet to unearth a powerful finisher in the same vein as Pollard and Russell, and there is no sign of anyone fulfilling the role of smashing fast bowlers with their powerful build in any of the IPL teams either.
So, with no reliable finisher in sight like Dhoni and Yuvraj, India needs to change the template of going hard only at the end of overs because they are unsure of their finishers' ability to score at 15 runs per over...India's finishers may not be even guaranteed to easily score 10 runs per over in the last five overs of the innings.
This is where India can change the template of fearless approach adopted by England team by introducing its own stamp of authority in its weakest phase of the game-the middle overs...
India might not possess powerfully built players to clear the fast bowlers in the huge grounds of Australia, but India does possess players who can demolish the spinners who bowl in the middle phase of the game usually...
So with this in mind, let's look at a proposed team with backups for each slot.
1.) Rohit Sharma
2.) KL Rahul
Backups (Ishan Kishan/Rutraj GGaikwad/Shikar Dhawan)
Rohit and Rahul have already demonstrated that they are two players who smash the most sixes in the team, even more sixes than the likes of Pant and Hardik Pandya as statistics show.
Both are practically unstoppable if they manage to last till the last phase of the innings, where a well-settled Rohit/Rahul can make merry against fast bowling with their 360* hitting arc that can clear even the humongous Australian grounds. They have shown this ability in Australia plenty of times over the years.
But they have shown weakness to get out a lot while trying to smash sixes of leg spinners in particular.
So both players are dangerous in the beginning phase and at the ending phase of the innings.
If someone could take the role of smashing the spinners during the middle overs without taking time to settle in, it could ease the pressure on the two biggest six hitters in the team to play slowly during the middle overs and wait for the return of the fast bowlers.
3.) Virat Kohli
India can’t look past its best batsman over the years, even though his strike rate is not as impressive as those who go around the world… But what he lacks in strike rate, he makes it up with his consistency to hold the entire innings like Kane Williamson of the New Zealand team…
Unlike his counterparts of the fab four (Smith/Root/Williamson), Kohli does possess the ability to hit sixes like the Indian openners against fast bowlers during the closing stages of the game.
Backup (Suryakumar Yadav/Shreyas Iyer)
Even though Suryakumar Yadav has captured the hearts of many cricket fans, he is very much an anchor like Virat in essence, and a team can’t boast of having so many anchors in a T20 team.
Even though Suryakumar, fondly called as "Sky", is undeniably the best Indian batsman against spin bowlers, the ball is not expected to spin much in Australia and Sky is yet to showcase his talent for smashing spin and fast bowlers at will. He is no more a Power hitter than Virat / Shreyas.
India discovered the disadvantages of having two similar players like Virat and SKY in the team, and to part them from batting together, they tried sending Rishabh Pant in the middle, but risking one of your biggest finishers so early in the game could capsize India during a crucial match like the one during the infamous opening match against Pakistan.
A notable mention is Shreyas Iyer, who is also an anchor in all escence for his IPL team and doesn't strike huge sixes against fast bowlers. They have tried him as a finisher in the Indian team, but can he elevate himself to be a finishe even with his weakness against the short-pitched bowling of fearsome pacers whom he would encounter in Australia?
Because of the enormous size of Australia's side boundaries, bowlers tend to bowl short to batsmen, even those who are good players of short pitch, because it is difficult to hit them over the large boundary...
So any player who isn't good at short pitch could easily be subdued, and with the entire cricketing community aware of his weakness against short pitch ball, most oppostion players would be thrilled to face the final few overs of the innings...
And Shreyas can’t leave the short balls like in the test arena, and he would be forced to take on the short balls with less skill that his colleagues.
As a result, Shreyas could serve as a backup to the anchor position in #3.
4.) Hardik Pandya, the batter
Even though this name is going to raise a lot of eyebrows for preferring him over SKY or Shreyas for the bugbear position in the Indian team, there are a few statistics that could back him up as the batsman that could alter India’s fearless approach to T20 cricket.
Hardik burst on to the Indian cricketing circuit after he smashed Pawan Negi for three maximums in a single over on a very difficult and slow pitch where other batsmen struggled to find timing in an IPL game...
And since then, Hardik has gone from strength to strength with his unique skill of being a fiersome finisher with fast bowling capabilities—a skill that was not present in the Indian cricket market.
So Hardik's entry into international cricket was accelerated, where he developed into a capable allrounder in the mould of Ben Stokes...
India now has its own Pollard meets Ben Stokes-style cricketer who adds much-needed balance to the team...He was even inducted into the test team to provide the balance that he provided...
With so many of the options provided by him, many forgot his exploitation of spinners over the years and looked at him as their one stop finisher against fast bowlers at the end of an innings.
But his brief stint at #4 yielded excellent results before the 2019 World Cup before he was sent back to #6 for lack of power hitters in Indian cricket at the end of the overs.
Fast bowlers appeared to have worked him out, and he may need more time to return to counter their short and wide bowling tactics, but he remains the most powerful smasher against spinners, easily clearing the boundary.
He even demonstrated this talent during the T20's and Odi's during the 2020 Australian tour, earning him numerous Man of the Match awards.
So, even though he may not be the force that he once was against fast bowlers, he still remains a man who can easily take on the spinners who are expected to bowl in the middle overs. And he is good enough to rotate strikes against fast bowlers.
If Hardik gets fit enough to bowl, you get an additional allrounder, which would extend your batting and bowling in the Indian team.
Hardik never had to play for his spot before, as he was the only man with his unique skillset available for the spot... But it is not so anymore with the arrival of the likes of Venkatesh Iyer.
We may very well find a better batsman in Hardik in the coming days who can bowl a couple of overs, but only if we designate him the role of a middle order pinch hitter whose only responsibility is to score big during the middle overs. It would be a bonus if he managed to send the spinners out of the attack and then hit the fast bowlers as well.
As highlighted before, the same role can be played by Pant, who is also a powerful smasher of spinners, but he has gotten out many times to spinners after hitting them for a couple of sixes in an innings. Pant relies more on timing than power to clear the ground against spinners, but he is the only finisher in sight for the Indian team who has the skills to take on the fast bowlers on huge grounds with his unarthodox cricket.
It would be too hasty to risk a batsman of the calibre of Pant to slog the spinners and get out while leaving the team bereft of a power hitter at the end phase of the game.
Having Hardik to take on the spinners could liberate the likes of Rohit/Rahul/Kohli from taking risks, and they could nudge the spinners around for singles and wait for the return of the breed of bowlers that they relish attacking-the fast bowlers.
5.) Rishabh Pant(WK)
Even if his T20I record isn't as impressive as his Test record, he's clearly a work in progress in T20 cricket who could one day become the talismanic cricketer of the next decade...
And there is no Indian with enough striking ability against both fast and spin bowlers in India, making his place unquestionable in the team currently.
Also, it seems that he is being groomed to be the Captain of the team in the future.
6.) Venkatesh Iyer
As demonstrated in the T20 World Cup, India desperately needed a fast bowling allrounder, and with Hardik unfit to bowl and Jadeja playing the spin bowling allrounder, India have no choice but to promote Iyer as a lower order finisher who can bowl...
His bowling record seems to be decent enough to allow Rohit to call him for a few overs if needed.
Even though he is a very interesting prospect as an opener in the future, he currently has no slots apart from the finisher slot in the team.
7.) Ravindra jadeja
Even though Jadeja the bowler in T20 is seldom as impressive as in the Longest format, his elevated batting skills make him a must-have in the team who can try to hold his own as a fifth bowler on the non-spinning tracks of Australia.
8.) Ashwin/Chahal/Varun Chakravarty/Bishnoi/Kuldeep
It can be taken for granted that India will likely play only one genuine spinner on the non-spinning tracks of Australia, but what assistance the spinners lack from the surface, they get it from the size of the Australian grounds, where most mishits are going to get caught in the deep.
So, a wily bowler with a lot of unknown variations is the need of the hour.
Only time can tell if Ashwin can be that bowler in Australia, where his variations may be negated to a large extent by the lack of spin and movement from the pitch.
9.) Shardul Thakur/Umran Malik /Avesh Khan/Siraj
10.) Jasprit Bumrah
11.) Natarajan/Harshal Patel
It would be mouthwatering to watch Bunrah bowl Yorkers in tandem with Natarajan during the end overs and prevent the big hitters from clearing the huge ground, while it would also be interesting to see if Harshal Patel’s change of pace could work on a pitch that is hard and fast.
(Bhuvi, Shami,Deepak Chahar)
With no swing expected in Australia, the efficacy of Bhuvi and Shami are question marks as they don’t possess the skill required to bowl in the end overs anymore...
Bhuvi’s lack of swing and speed has made him an easy target for the opposition batsmen, which led him to be benched after the first match of the 2021 T20 World Cup.
Shami has always struggled in T20 cricket for both India and his IPL team...He is no where in the realms of Natarajan/Harshal patel to partner Bumrah in the end…He was drafted into the world cup team on the basis of his performance in the test arena…
With no swing expected in Australia, the efficacy of Deepak chahar would be greatly reduced as he relies on swing to bowl predominantly in the powerplay.
Some teams can win by batting, while others can win by bowling . But there are only very few teams that are blessed like India, who possess both the batting and bowling richness that other teams dream of...
But it must be important for the power centers in the Indian cricket team to pick players for a role in the team instead of making players play in a role not suited…
And also it would be imperative for the new leadership to pick players on their performance in the limited format instead of picking players based on their performance in the Test format.
Skillset of this team
- Number of batsman – 7 (8-including Ashwin)
- Number of Bowlers: – 7 (If Hardik starts to bowl), 4- genuine bowlers, 2- fast bowling allrounders, and 1- spin bowling allrounder).
This extended batting with more power hitters can liberate the top three batsmen from taking undue risk in the middle overs while maximizing the middle phase with the likes of Pandya.
India can create its own template by going hard with their traditional strength of attacking the spinners expected to bowl in the middle overs with the addition of Pandya and Iyer, who provide more batting and bowling options.
Anyone can win and reach their goals only after they defeat their adversary, and it is paramount that India manages to defeat its bugbear phase of T20 batting-the middle phase..
Lets hope that India can find its own template and usher in another era for T20 evolution.`
Proposed India’s T20 Playing X1 for Australia World Cup
- Venkatesh Iyer
- Siraj/Avesh Khan/Umran Malik
- Natarajan/Harshal Patel
ODI template for the World Cup to be hosted in India
India can easily use the same template for the ODI world cup to be hosted in India and replace the third seamer with a genuine spinner as the likes of Hardik/Venkatesh iyer can easily make few overs from the fifth bowler's quota…
And Jadeja is more of a beast in spinning Indian conditions and he can easily play the role of a fifth bowler in Indian condition
Indian ODI playing X1
- Venkatesh Iyer
- Shami/Siraj/Avesh Khan/Umran Malik
Skillset of this ODI team
- Number of batsman – 7 (8-including Ashwin)
- Number of Bowlers: – 7 (If Hardik starts to bowl), 4- genuine bowlers, 2- fast bowling allrounders, and 1- spin bowling allrounder).
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