By Nishad Pai Vaidya
With all the focus on India’s 0-4 drubbing in the Test series, the passage of the tour into the limited-overs segment has gone almost unnoticed. The eerily -similar pattern to that of the England tour still haunts the Indian fans as some pessimistically opine that India’s winless trend would continue. A close look at India’s squad for the T20s and the tri-series involving Australia and Sri Lanka would dispel those fears. In contrast to the horrendous experience in England which was plagued by injuries, India have a full-strength squad with a good mixture of youth and experience.
The introduction of young legs into the side will certainly add fresh energy on the field for India. The likes of Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary and Suresh Raina are fantastic fielders and would form the crux of India’s plans in the T20s and the tri-series. However, in the presence of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, it would be interesting to see who amongst the youngsters would make the cut into the final playing eleven.
In all probability Tendulkar would continue to sit out of India’s T20 plans allowing the younger members of the team to make an early impression. Once the tri-series begins, one of them would have to make way for Tendulkar as he would occupy the opening slot. Gambhir and Sehwag would open the batting in the T20 internationals with Kohli, Rohit and Dhoni to follow. Jadeja should get in due to the balance he provides with his all-round ability. Raina would play ahead of Tiwary as he is a proven performer in the shortest format and the finish he provides is of vital importance.
Coming to the bowling, Dhoni should choose three fast bowlers and one spinner. The presence of Jadeja already provides the extra spin bowling option so there isn’t a need to play two tweakers. Ravichandran Ashwin and Rahul Sharma are the two specialist spinners in the squad and both have displayed their ability to stem the flow of runs and pick up wickets at crucial intervals. Ashwin would be ahead of Rahul in the pecking order, but the Indians must consider playing the latter in one of the two matches and allow him the chance to replicate his Indian Premier League (IPL) exploits at the highest level.
The real dilemma would arise when Dhoni sits to pick the fast bowlers. He can consider giving Zaheer Khan a rest from the T20s to recharge his batteries for the tri-series. His fitness on this tour has been one of the biggest positives for India as he played the whole Test series and is set to feature in the limited-overs games.
The other pacers India have in their squad are Umesh Yadav, Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar and Irfan Pathan. Although Yadav picked up wickets during the Test series, his economy rate took a beating and that may go against him. On the other hand, there may be similar worries with Vinay as his lack of pace and movement may not be very useful with the batsmen looking to attack the bowling. Pathan has just returned to the international setup and it would be a bit risky exposing him to the T20 format.
Giving Zaheer a breather would allow India to play two of the three mentioned above with Praveen being the certainty in the attack. Then again, it wouldn’t be very easy to pick two off the three.
While India seems to be a unit with many established names in international cricket, the hosts Australia have quite a few fresh faces. The appointment of international debutant George Bailey as the captain seems to be a professional move as the selectors have opted to drop the non-performing Cameron White for a player who had proved his leadership skills at the domestic level. If he is able to impress with his batting and captaincy, it would be a master stroke by the Australian think tank. His selection invokes memories of Lee Germon’s ascent to theNew Zealand captaincy.
The Australian selectors have chosen the squad keeping the ICC World T20 2012 in perspective. It requires a lot of courage to throw open the international arena to domestic talent as a build-up to an important tournament. It is clear that they want to have separate squads for each format as it would allow the respective players to concentrate on their own form and abilities.
Bailey’s appointment is just one such move. The return of Brad Hogg came as a bolt from the blue but his strong performances in the Big Bash League (BBL) back his selection. His left-arm Chinaman would be very useful if he makes it to Sri Lanka for the World T20. Furthermore, the inclusion of Travis Birt, Mitchell Marsh, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch and Clint McKay gives the team management an opportunity to pin point their best options for the big event.
India could have taken similar if not drastic moves to setup a T20 squad by including the T20 specialists. They have featured in home games but are conspicuous by their absence overseas. The cash-rich Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) seem to be on a cash saving mission as far as away T20s are concerned!
(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.")