Isn’t it ironic that when India opposed the T20 format, it won the inaugural World T20 tournament, and later when we embraced the format and started hosting the world’s most high profile T20 league - the IPL, we failed to replicate the 2007 heroics?
While the world claims to have benefitted from the IPL, Indian players, oddly enough, continue to perform below par during the T20 World Cup, held every alternate year. So, what is it that the Indian players need to do to change their fortunes in the latest edition of the World T20 that starts in a week?
Ajinkya Rahane plays a pull shot against Afghanistan during the recently concluded Asia Cup. Pic/AFP.
1. Wickets in first six overs
Taking wickets in the first six overs is the key to India’s success in the World T20. In fact, if a team loses more than two wickets in the first six, it goes on to lose the match more often than not. That’s where someone like Bhuvneshwar Kumar is critical for India’s chances, for he’s the only Indian fast bowler with any international T20 experience. He will have to get back to taking wickets with the new ball if India are to entertain any hopes of putting one across teams like the West Indies and Australia.
2. Fewer runs in last 6
A T20 game can be easily divided into three parts - first six overs of high scoring, the following eight of consolidation and the last six of slog. Even if the opposition gets away with the game in the first six, India are likely to get back into the game in the middle eight thanks to its experienced spin attack. But the last six still remain a concern. Mohammad Shami is India’s bowling spearhead but he has conceded a boundary every four balls between the 41st and 50th overs in ODIs. And hence it’ll take a great disciplined effort from him to return with good figures in Bangladesh.
3. Play three spinners
Traditionally, fast bowlers have picked more wickets and conceded fewer runs in T20 cricket. But India may have to adopt a different strategy and take the road less travelled by playing three spinners and only two fast bowlers. While Bhuvneshwar and Shami are the two obvious picks, the third option is a toss up between Varun Aaron and Mohit Sharma if India were to play three seamers. It just doesn’t inspire confidence, right? That’s why playing Amit Mishra ahead of the third seam bowler could be a more viable option. Mishra’s T20 credentials are second to none and it might just work against Australia and South Africa.
4. Send Rahane up
Instead of opening with the ODI pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, it might be worth gambling with Rahane at the top in place of Rohit. Rahane is in better form than his Mumbai teammate and T20 cricket demands to have in-form players to bat at the top. Also, Rohit’s inability to rotate the strike puts pressure on Dhawan, which leads to his premature dismissals too. Rahane, on the other hand, has not only got all the strokes but also has the ability to offer deft touches. Having Rohit in the middle could also be helpful considering the comebacks of Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh. There’s a possibility that both might be slightly rusty and slow things down a tad. That’s where Rohit could be an asset too, for he has the big shots to finish games off.
5. Opt to bat second
In most cases, the toss decision depends a lot on the conditions but in India’s case, it’s a no-brainer. Considering India’s bowling strengths, or the lack of it, it’s imperative for them to chase whenever Dhoni wins the toss. I firmly believe that T20 is won by teams with better bowling, for you need at least five of them to bowl four overs apiece, and India doesn’t have quality in their bowling department. So, for the batting to bail India out in Bangladesh, it’s better to chase a total than set a target.
21-3-2014: The day India play Pakistan in their opening game of the World T20 in Mirpur