Ahmedabad, March 11
India, winners of the inaugural T20 World Cup back in 2007, have done little of note in the tournament since then. Thus, Virat Kohli would have his eye on this year’s T20 World Cup, scheduled to be held in India in October-November, when India play England in a five-match T20I series starting here tomorrow. In recent past, India have done well in T20Is — in 2020, they lost only one match out of 10 played, winning seven outright and two in the Super Over after ties in regulation. They won the three-match series 2-1 in Australia and beat New Zealand 5-0.
This positivity makes the team confident, and Kohli would be keen to explore the best combinations for the future in the series against the tough, well-rounded England. Kohli’s primary aim would be to get an idea of his core group of players going into the T20 World Cup. While there are more advantages of having multiple options, fashionably described as a “happy headache” for any captain, there are a few pitfalls that come with such a situation. Kohli understands this well, having burnt his hands during the 2019 World Cup, where India didn’t have a settled No. 4.
Kohli today made it clear that his deputy Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul will be the first-choice opening pair going into the World T20, Shikhar Dhawan being in the reserves. “If Rohit plays, then it’s simple. KL (Rahul) and Rohit have been performing consistently at the top of the order for us and those two will start,” Kohli said.
While Suryakumar Yadav is a sentimental favourite for many after last year’s IPL and his subsequent non-selection for the Australia tour, fellow Mumbaikar Shreyas Iyer looks a likely starter at least in the first couple of games. The Motera track will certainly be a flat deck, suiting the needs of the shortest format. Whether it is Rohit, Rishabh Pant or Hardik Pandya for the hosts and captain Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Dawid Malan and Jason Roy for England, the ball is likely to be hit out of the ground regularly.
In the bowling department, Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be back leading the attack alongside another senior, Yuzvendra Chahal, for company. With England’s weakness against slow bowlers well-documented in these conditions, Chahal could have both Washington Sundar and Axar Patel bowling spin with him, which leaves Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar and Navdeep Saini vying for one spot. For England, the white ball format presents opportunities to multi-skilled cricketers like Stokes, Sam Curran and IPL auction sensation Moeen Ali for starters, who can change the complexion of any game in either department. — TNS, agencies