What’s interesting to notice is the buildup to the event. We have the limited overs leg of England’s tour to India, a whole season of IPL, the World Test Championship final, India’s tour of England tour as the confirmed fixtures as of now. So, India gets to play T20 cricket as a team only in these 5 matches against England. And as far as the first T20 match is any indication, India are far from achieving the balance in their squad that might turn up in the mega event. To begin with, Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah are two players who would walk into the team whenever they become available. There are a lot of selection headaches for the team management, as there are a number of positions still not finalized. There is the opening conundrum, as they have to pick two out of the troika of Rohit, Dhawan, and Rahul. Then there is the number four slot - who do they pick out of Suryakumar Yadav or Shreyas Iyer? Do they go ahead with two finger spinners in Washington Sundar and Jadeja? Who are the pace bowlers that partner Bumrah, they will have to choose one or two from Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, and Natarajan, depending on the spin-pace combination.
While many of these selection headaches, especially the ones pertaining to individual performances and form will be taken care of by the end of this year’s IPL, the ones regarding the team’s performance as a whole might not be resolved anytime soon. The reason - India plays so little T20 cricket as a team and a lot of it in IPL. Traditionally, India never have been a T20 powerhouse, they aren’t really known to set the stage on fire with explosive batting. So, when they went about their batting in an “aggressive” way in the first T20 on Friday, it raised a lot of eyebrows. The Indian batsmen never really gave them much of a chance to get settled in, as they tried to push the run rate up after a mere few dot balls. Instead of focussing on their original game, they tried to emulate what they thought was expected by them in this format, and as a result, they lost three wickets with just 22 runs on the board.
It was the pair of Pant and Iyer who stabilized the innings, with the latter going on to compile a fine half century. Iyer also showed the template that needed to be followed by the batsmen on how to go about batting on that pitch, and this was echoed by the Indian skipper as well in the post match conference. With the likes of Pant and Pandya at number five and six, India does have that option of demolishing the opposition bowlers in the death overs, but they need some foundation from the top order batsmen at first. Hopefully, the top order comes to the party when India take on England in the second T20, and the Indian captain gets some runs under his belt to end his short lean patch, while the major focus will be whether the team figures out the approach they want to follow in the mega T20 event this October.
-- Jatin Shad