The bowlers held sway in the Test series between India and England, but it is now time for the batsmen to wield their rapier-like bats and have bowlers at their mercy in the five-match T20 series starting on Friday in Ahmedabad. England may have been vanquished in the recent Test series, but the team is a different beast in white ball formats, especially the T20 one. It is the top-ranked side in ICC T20I rankings. While England have been unbeaten in their last eight T20I series, India have stayed undefeated in their last seven.
England’s last T20I series loss came way back in 2018. Interestingly, it was against India. In fact, England have lost their past two bilateral T20I series against India, with their last series victory coming way back in 2014.
India are second after England in the ICC rankings, and a clash of one and two is going to be mouth-watering for the fans. Most importantly, a series win for either team will be a massive confidence booster ahead of this year’s T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to be played in October-November in India.
For both teams, the series will also give a chance to plug those missing gaps in their respective squads before the World Cup.
Eyes on young guns
The Indian team is keen on increasing their power game. This series will see some new names in the India jersey. The Mumbai Indians pair of Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan have been given a well-deserved chance. Suryakumar and Ishan may not get a game right away, but in due course their number will also come.
Rishabh Pant has been brought back in the white-ball scheme of things. Along with Hardik Pandya, Pant, Ishan and Suryakumar (whosoever plays) will give the team much-needed nitro boost in the middle-order.
Rahul Tewatia, last IPL’s surprise package, is also there in the squad. A handy leg-spinner and hard-hitting batsman, the Indian team management is surely going to check Tewatia’s all-round skills at the international level.
Who should be Rohit Sharma’s opening partner? The experienced Shikhar Dhawan for the left-right combination at the top or India’s highest-ranked T20I batsman KL Rahul?
The Sharma-Rahul opening duo has given India robust starts whenever it has been paired. They average 50.72 and go at a breakneck run-rate of 9.96. In comparison, Sharma-Dhawan average 33 and their run-rate is 8.28. Skipper Virat Kohli backed the Sharma-Rahul combo. “There is no question about Rohit opening and Rahul will partner him. Rahul is our best T20I batsman in the ICC rankings and that speaks volumes. At present, Shikhi (Shikhar Dhawan) is our third opener,” Kohli said.
Mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy is set to miss the series after he couldn’t clear BCCI’s recently-revised fitness test targets. Varun will be missing out on an opportunity for a potential India debut for the second time, having been initially picked in the T20I squad for the tour of Australia but subsequently ruled out due to a shoulder injury. He had a lengthy rehab at NCA, Bangalore after which the selectors picked him for the England series.
Kohli had stern words for any of the fringe players “aspiring” to play for India. “We have set some standards for ourselves. This is the topmost level and everyone aspiring to play for India should take our yardsticks seriously.” ‘Yorker King’ T Natarajan, meanwhile, is likely to miss the series opener due to a “shoulder niggle”.
Flat track or spin friendly?
The pitch will have lots of runs in the offing, but the spinners will have their impact on the game. Earlier this year, the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy knockouts were held at the stadium and in the seven knockout matches, no team could breach the 165-run mark.
England captain Eoin Morgan, for one, is expecting turning tracks. “I think there will be turning wickets on offer. I look at it positively. Going into the T20 World Cup, it’s an area in which we need more experience. It’s a challenge we look forward to.”