India needs to persist with the current lot of players till the T20 World Cup

Virat Kohli (left), Suresh Raina (centre) and Rohit Sharma celebrate the fall of a wicket during their second T20 international against Australia © Getty Images

 

By Karthik Parimal

 

Indian supporters hoped that their team’s dismal performance in the Test series should not have a negative impact on the young brigade picked for the abridged version of the game. But a new-look Australian side ensured that there was no let up in the misery of the Indian team Down Under by winning the first of the two-match T20 International. That is why India’s refreshing approach in the second T20 gladdened the hearts of the nation and, unquestionably, the beleaguered Indian team.

 

Considering that the T20 World Cup is just seven months away, India’s performance in recent T20 matches have been worrisome. In the last three years, India has played 23 T20 Internationals, of which it has won just 11. Many would argue saying that this form of the game is just a slog-fest and the outcome doesn’t really imply anything. Agreed, it’s a slog-fest, but consistency has prevailed and teams have been successful by employing certain methods even in this format.

 

What India seemed to be lacking before yesterday’s contest was the enthusiasm and hunger; at least the body language on the field suggested so. They have repeatedly come up with uninspired performances, not only in Tests but also in the T20s. India need to show importance to all formats of this game to keep the momentum going. India is currently ranked 7th – ahead of just the West Indies, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe in the T20 rankings. Surely, India has the potential to be ranked higher.

 

India is a side that depends heavily on its batsmen. Bowling has never been its forte. However, putting up decent scores on the board has become a migraine for India during recent times. The openers have failed to get India off to a flyer, irrespective of the format. Virender Sehwag’s approach has turned from flamboyant to lackadaisical. Solidity matters more than the occasional highs and frequent lows. No doubt Sehwag has the ability to bulldoze any opposition, but he has failed to do that on a consistent basis in all formats in recent times. Nevertheless, Gautam Gambhir’s knock yesterday oozed positivity.

 

His 20 against in the 1st T20 summarises his career in this format. He weathers the storm initially and throws his wicket away just when he looks confident enough to capitalise on the start. His average of 22.80 during the last three years in this format is a testimony to that. If he can keep the impetus going, following his knock of 56 in the second T20, it would augur well for the team. His opening partner Sehwag, too, has averaged just 22.64 since February 2009 and it will be a bonus for the side if can start to build on the starts.

 

Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Rohit Sharma have all done well in the middle-order for India in the T20s. Raina has been a revelation for India in the shorter formats. His hard-hitting ability and his miserly spells with the ball make him a thorn in the flesh of the opposition. However, he needs to be more consistent. Dhoni, too, has made some decent contributions, but needs to work on his strike-rate. This point was precisely emphasised by Nishad Pai Vaidya in his recent article, ‘Dhoni needs to improve his strike-rate in T20 Internationals’.

 

One can’t help but feel sorry for Rohit Sharma. He managed a first-ball duck in what was his first outing after weeks of warming the bench during the entire Test series. That is what sometimes happens when a player is made to wait endlessly despite having performed well. Nevertheless, it is important that the think-tank persists with Rohit Sharma; like the way they persisted with Virat Kohli during the Test series. Genuine talent eventually succeeds.

 

It is important to persist with the current lot of players, at least for the shorter formats, keeping the upcoming T20 World Cup in mind. India cannot afford major changes at this juncture in this format. However, the inclusion of Irfan Pathan in place of Vinay Kumar can enhance the value of the side. Irfan is capable of troubling the batsmen with his ability to move the ball both ways and is no mug with the bat. On the other hand, Vinay Kumar appears to be a rhythm bowler who tends to get rattled the moment he loses his rhythm.

 

Without a shadow of a doubt, the current Indian side is extremely skilled and can dominate. But they need to be more consistent as a team. Persisting with the current lot of players is important as it may help things to fall in place before the T20 World Cup. However, they have to start believing in themselves and be ruthless. That is the only way out from the current plethora of their problems.

 

(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)