Ajinkya Rahane (above) can open the innings for India in place of Rohit Sharma © AFP
India won their first two matches of the ICC World T20 2014 comfortably. They now face Bangladesh and then Australia before the Super 10s phase completes in the T20 World Cup. India have only had five batsmen take the field in both those victories. Before a crunch clash with Australia, should India consider a few team rotations against Bangladesh, ponders Shrikant Shankar.
When asked at the post-match presentation after the match against West Indies, if India need a close win in the ICC World T20 2014 to test all the players as the business end comes closer, captain MS Dhoni said ‘No’. Dhoni’s thinking is simple, ‘If the team is winning comfortably, then that is how he wants it to be’. It is a great way of looking at things, but there is another element to it.
India are not exactly playing all that well. When Australia won the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, rarely was the full XI tested. The finals of both the two World Cups were actually strolls for them. They were the undisputed No 1 team in the world back then. Even on occasions when the squad depth was tested, they came out with wins. But For this Indian team, that is not the case.
India’s bowling is weak. The fast bowlers will be found out by better teams eventually. The spinners seem to be doing well only on those pitches that help them. In the batting department as well, a few players are not at their best. Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh have been in indifferent form. Virat Kohli, though, is always in form and that is important for India. Rohit Sharma has been scoring runs, but he has not looked fluent. Suresh Raina will relish his chances in tracks which offer less bounce.
The likes of Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin have not had any opportunity to wield their willow. A stage will come when they are needed and good match practice always helps. This is not to say that the team should bat poorly at the top to allow the lower-order to come in and have a go. If the team are winning without being tested from below the middle-order, then it is great. But there is a great chance for them to change things a bit in the next match.
India play Bangladesh next on March 28 at Mirpur. The hosts are confidence-stricken after suffering consecutive losses to Hong Kong and the West Indies. They were also outplayed by Afghanistan in the Asia Cup 2014. India face them at a good time for themselves, especially after morale-boosting wins over pre-tournament favourites Pakistan and West Indies. They should give others in the squad a run against Bangladesh before a crunch clash against Australia on March 30.
ICC World T20 2014 Points Table and Team Standings
ICC World T20 2014 Schedule details
That match could be crucial in terms of deciding as to which team from Group 2 qualifies for the semi-finals. India could tweak the batting order a bit. Many former cricketers have been opining to let Ajinkya Rahane open the batting with Rohit coming in at No 4. This is the perfect match to try this kind of change. The likes of Stuart Binny and Varun Aaron could also be given a chance to see what they can offer.
Wholesale changes are not needed; just the minor tweaks that could be akin to flexing muscles which one didn’t know exist. Dhoni’s India are not a side that is known to use squad rotation to full effect. But they also have not had great success in the last few months. The World T20 2014 offers them a chance to win another important title. Use the full strength of the squad is imperative for a team which is highly talented, but low on confidence. The Bangladesh tie is the perfect match to experiment and it could prove important as the tournament heads into the business end.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)