In pursuit of the right mix, the team management has been blooding youngsters who have set the IPL afire, T20 caps to Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav against England in the second encounter on Sunday is the latest move in this endeavour.
While team composition is work in progress, the re-emergence of Hardik Pandya, the all-rounder, is crucial to India’s plans. With the five-match series tied at one-all, India will bank on the Pandya X-Factor in the third contest too, in Ahmedabad on Tuesday night.
Offering clarity on Pandya’s role, skipper Virat Kohli said on Sunday, “In the next 6-8 month period, he’s promised he’s going to commit everything to be the all-rounder the team needs in all three formats. He plays for the team at all times, these kinds of players are priceless.”
Pandya could help solve several of the puzzles in the lead-up to the global T20 extravaganza in October-November. On Sunday, he easily slipped in to the fifth bowler’s role, bowling his full quota of four overs with quiet efficiency. This, after he eased back into action as the sixth option in the opener, when he was used for two overs during England’s untroubled run chase.
On both occasions, Pandya was up to the task. In the second match in particular, he bowled both in the Power Play and at the death, conceding a miserly 7 and 6 runs in his first and last overs. Pandya played as a specialist batsman for Mumbai Indians in the 2020 IPL after recovering from a back injury. His four overs of brisk medium-pace will allow the world’s No. 2 T20 team the luxury of fielding an extra batsman.
India have used two opening combinations in as many matches, with KL Rahul being the constant. Shikhar Dhawan, who started ahead of Rohit Sharma, was replaced by match-winning rookie Ishan Kishan on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if the team persists with Rahul – who until the last series in Australia was the preferred wicketkeeper-batsman – after his twin failures. The talented Karnataka opener was dismissed for 1 and nought after a long absence from competitive cricket. If Rahul doesn’t get a third chance, it might herald Rohit’s belated return.
While Rohit Sharma (L) is expected to return to the side for the third T20I against England at Motera, for Shikhar Dhawan, who lost his place to Ishan Kishan, it may mean spending more time on the sidelines. (Getty Images)
The hosts go into Tuesday’s match with a lot of positives following their seven-wicket win. Debutant Kishan’s 32-ball 56 and skipper Kohli’s return to run-scoring ways with an unbeaten 49-ball 73 augur well, as does Washington Sundar‘s tidy off-spin both at the beginning and the business end of England’s innings. The one thing India will look to tighten is their fielding after a number of missed chances on Sunday.
England have plenty of lessons to learn from the heavy loss. Having started the series on a winning note, the visiting batsmen were foxed by a slower pitch with their star batsmen, barring opener Jason Roy, struggling when the bowlers took the pace off and the ball started to grip the surface. Apart from Sam Curran and Jofra Archer, their bowlers too were ineffective with Adil Rashid, the lone spinner, taken to the cleaners by Kishan.