A week after dethroning Australia from the top spot, India came home filled with confidence to face Sri Lanka in the three T20s – a preparatory exercise for the upcoming World Cup. After spending close to a month in Australia, playing in those flat and bouncy tracks, Indian batsmen found it hard to put bat to ball in the first T20 match at Pune. The ‘good’ length proved too good for the top order as Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan played through the line instead of opting for ‘wait’, ‘watch’ and ‘play’ approach.
As a part of preparations in the game of chess, the players often challenge themselves with various forms of opening and varying degree of attacking moves.
A good chess player finds a solution and Indian batting would have been better off adopting a different strategy after losing those three wickets early.
Looking through the first ten overs in that Pune match, it gave me a feeling, the Indian batsmen found it hard, could not adjust to the pace and to the length the Lankan bowlers dished out. A mature partnership of 28 runs for the ninth wicket took India to 100 – a score which seemed more challenging than a score in mid-70’s.
This was a fairly inexperienced Sri Lankan team and the early wickets might have helped India defend this modest target. A dropped chance and that was it. In T20s, wickets are premium as one cannot restrict a team throughout the innings. India lost the match. There was nothing left to analyse and one had to wait how the home team fared in Ranchi before offering comments.
Sri Lanka bowled again hoping a repeat performance of Pune. However, the venue Ranchi looked under prepared especially the outfields and Indian openers flourished in conditions that didn’t assist the pace bowlers of Sri Lanka. The story of the Australia followed – India posted a huge target and defended well to level the series.
In the decider, Sri Lanka lost the plot completely. They lost wickets far too regularly to even post a three digit target. India won the match easily and with that the series and still retains the one number spot in the T20 rankings.
What did India learn from this?
The biggest lesson I hope Indians would have not forgotten is the way they approached the batting after losing early wickets. It is paramount to not play reckless shots for 2-3 overs and the objective must be to bat out the 20 overs and post a decent target in excess of 130. Sure, that won’t be enough, any day that is better than getting bowled out for under the quota of overs and below 100.
Team India will face better oppositions than Sri Lanka and it needs to have a different plan ready and communicated to all the playing members in case things do not go as per plan A.
Virat Kohli will come into the side and will replace Rahane. The all-rounder spot of Hardik Pandya can be changed depending on the conditions by Axar Patel or by even a batsman, Rahane?. Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina offer a much needed balance when it comes to bowling in the spin friendly conditions.
Regarding the fast bowlers, is Nehra the man to persist with? As far as match practice goes, he seems to be the only pace bowler alongside Jaspreet Bumrah to have played the T20 format since the Australia tour. It won’t be a bad idea to have the backup bowlers ready just in case the existing combinations gets disturbed.
M.S Dhoni has been very vocal about winning the T20 World Cup. It seems whatever he has been doing since the start of the year, the focus was to build a strong team for the World Cup.
Does he plan to sign off on a high? You never know!