WI vs Ind, T20Is, 2022: Last-minute experiment in opening slot as India gear up for World T20 2022
West Indies vs India T20I Series 2022: India experiment with Suryakumar Yadav in place of Rishabh Pant as opener in 1st T20I against West Indies. India beat West Indies in 1st T20I.
With every passing week, the mega world event, ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia is knocking on the doors as all the teams are closing out their last-minute preparations. India, after their early exit from ICC World T20 2021 in United Arab Emirates (UAE), have won 12 out of their last 13 T20Is under captain Rohit Sharma.
Just after clinching their 12th successive One Day International (ODI) series over the West Indies, they began the five-match T20I series on a bright note at the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba, Trinidad.
Rohit, Karthik blasted with bat before spinners took full control
Put in to bat first, India, with a new opening combination of Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav began well but could reach only 45/2 in the powerplay. The West Indies bowlers, with the slower balls, took full control of the game to cage India to 131/5 in 15 overs. Later, Dinesh Karthik’s masterclass death overs batting (a 19-ball 41) fired India to 190/5 in their allotted 20 overs.
The hosts were never in the chase losing three wickets in the first six overs with just 42 on the board. With the three Indian spinners coming more into the game, the West Indies went deep in the hole being reduced to 98/7 in 15 overs. India earned a comfortable victory by 68 runs to lead the series by 1-0.
India displayed same attacking template and approach
What India have learned from their disaster in the last T20 World Cup is to go with an aggressive approach from the very first ball; even if wickets keep on falling, they carry on going with the same template.
In their recent T20Is, they have flown from 138/6 to 190/6 or 89/5 to 170/8 or 31/3 to 198/9, which paints out that they have erased the defensive mindset in the shortest format of the game. In 2022, India in 11 T20Is have just one score of under 150 when they bagged 148/6 against South Africa in the second home T20I of the recently concluded series.
“We are playing in the same manner but we have given the freedom to the players to play their game,” India captain Rohit Sharma asserted. “Because if you play freely, you will get the performances.”
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The balance and team position too seem to be settled
India’s team balance and the position of the players for a few spots has been locked as Rohit Sharma is going to be the opener, while Hardik Pandya is being assigned at number five to be followed by Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja.
The outline for India in T20Is is that they are going with five proper batters along with five proper bowlers while Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja are going to share the overs between themselves. In the first T20I against West Indies, India selected two proper pacers in the form of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh, along with all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
Looking at the pitch in Tarouba during the first game, they designated three spinners in the form of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Bishnoi and that helped them tremendously to get hold of the game as the spin trio returned with figures of 5/74 in 12 overs.
“We got to try and back the ideas about executing it with the bat,” Rohit informed after the first T20I. “We want to try certain things.”
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From Rishabh Pant, the opener to Suryakumar Yadav, the opener
It was just around a month ago when suddenly Rishabh Pant was seen coming as an opener with Rohit Sharma during the second T20I against England where he managed 26 runs in 15 balls; in the next game, he went back cheaply for just 1.
Now, against West Indies, during the first T20I game, even with Pant in the side, Suryakumar Yadav opened the innings and cashed in 24 runs in 16 balls that was coloured by three boundaries and one massive six.
Both these decisions in two separate series might look a bit funky but actually that experiment was needed for India going into the world cup. There were instances in the past like against Pakistan in the ICC World T20 2021 when India, after being reduced to 31/3 in the powerplay, went into the shell and began to play conservative cricket. With no power-hitting experience for the middle order, their susceptibility against the new ball pushed India back.
So, this time around, captain Rohit Sharma with head coach Rahul Dravid and team management, in the absence of regular opener KL Rahul, are using a few players from the middle order at the opening slot.
In the past, both Suryakumar Yadav and Rishabh Pant have opened in T20s; the former has collected 465 runs in 13 innings at a strike rate of 136.76 with an average of 35.76, notching up four half-centuries as an opener in the T20s.
Pant has scored 600 runs in 18 innings at a strike rate of 164.38 and average of 35.29, with five fifties and one century. In a game playing for Delhi against Himachal Pradesh, opening the innings, Pant celebrated a 32-ball century in a Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy game. That again spells out that the management aren’t throwing someone under the bus without fully being aware of their talent.
Are experiments making players uncomfortable
Every tactic has a flip side to it and in this case too, these little experiments of changing the positions of the players may affect the players’ mental state. With the amount of talent India have got with a huge pool of players, they know that with a failure in a series, their future in the game might be affected.
But that’s not the actual case; these players playing at the highest level for a long time know how to be mentally strong while the team management too plays a huge role in making the players acclimatised at the highest level.
Perhaps, the ongoing five-match T20I series against the West Indies will be the last chance for India to make experiments before firming up their possible playing eleven for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022. This will surely help the players to get the best chance to get used to match situations before the mega event.
India will play the second game of the five-match T20I series against the West Indies on August 1 at Warner Park in Basseterre, St Kitts.
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