Shardul Thakur, inducted in the T20I team after Ravindra Jadeja suffered concussion, had claimed that the team is looking at the white-ball leg of the Australian tour as a six-match series instead of it being two three-match series in ODI and T20I format.
Going by that perception, India are 2-2 with Australia with two T20Is to go in Sydney. The second T20I on Sunday, then, gives them the first chance to pull ahead of the hosts on this tour.
Earlier in the year, India coach Ravi Shastri and captain Virat Kohli had declared that the ODI format was insignificant when there are two T20 World Cups lined up and that the format could only be considered as an extension of the T20 game. In essence, the Indian team is in the middle of a long and winding audition.
The audition has often resembled musical chairs for most players. The quest for the right combination has looked never-ending. Caught in the commotion are the middle order batsmen like Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson and Manish Pandey. Then there’s the spin department. The once perceived magic combo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal has been given the goby while the pacers are torn between managing workloads and opportunities.
Every playing XI, across formats, has seen changes. Call it ‘giving opportunity’ or ‘chopping and changing’, the question is how long are India willing to experiment? IPL’s most successful captain Rohit Sharma has even expressed his disgust for the ‘chopping and changing’ methods.
The team sheet handed out by Kohli at the toss on Sunday will provide a clue.
India have to prepare a backup for every player until the World Cup rings in. But then the first-choice players are yet to be identified. There is barely a player barring Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul who has got a decent run of 10 matches. So how does one measure consistency?
‘Process’ has been a convenient word used in Indian cricket in the last decade. It has been the answer to all tough questions. Yet, there’s been just a Bumrah, after Kohli, who has managed to secure a spot in the playing XI across formats.
The performance in the One-day format aside, India’s smooth run in T20Is in the last year would say there is no reason for the Indian team management to renege on its ‘process’. They have been unbeaten in their last nine T20Is.
Yet, Sunday is an opportunity for the team to settling down on its first team. T Natarajan, for one, has given enough confidence to allow Bumrah a good rest ahead of the Test series.
Shardul has shown enough control to fill in for an off-colour Shami. It’s time they got a run. Chahal dished out a lesson in the last game.
The only place the team could come unstuck is the absence of Ravindra Jadeja. Of late, they have been too dependent on his lower-order heroics. They haven’t carried a backup for Jadeja in the team. Maybe it’s time Washington Sundar took more responsibility with the bat.