After the Indian team’s losses to Pakistan and New Zealand in World T20, there is a buzz of approach change in the shortest format. Cricket Pundits all over the world criticized the Indian team for their cautious approach and intent. No wonder the shortest format transformation is being demanded from the past cricketers and fans alike.
New Coaching & Support Staff
Rahul Dravid has been officially announced as Head Coach of the Indian team after the ongoing T20I world cup. From changing the approach to winning an ICC trophy, Rahul Dravid already has multiple challenges in front of him. In fact, Dravid and the new support staff have a lot more than that in hand. They need to take care of grooming the youngsters to build a formidable side as well. However, Dravid is known for giving youngsters a good run under him. He is known as a guiding force for them.
In the series of blogs around team India’s shortest format transformation, we are attempting to assess India’s transformation prospects with the next T20I world cup to be held next year. We are reviewing a few youngsters in all three departments who could be given a long run in order to form a dominating T20I side. In this blog, we would analyze India’s approach and top order. The next two blogs will be about the middle order and bowling department respectively.
Approach: Need to Reinvent but with Caution
In T20, approach clarity is a crucial weapon of the arsenal for a formidable side. England redefined their approach after the 2015 world cup to an all-attacking mindset thereby forming one of the dominating sides in white-ball cricket. Similarly, West Indies too is known for playing an attacking brand of Cricket. However, England in the ongoing tournament qualified for the semifinals while West Indies failed miserably on those tricky pitches of UAE. Both the sides played with an attacking approach, however, England managed to create a good synergy between attack and common sense cricket on tricky decks whereas West Indies didn’t adjust to the conditions and faced repercussions. “Attack to Self Destruction” by Nishant Desai can give you a better understanding of the attacking approach dynamics.
On the other hand, the Indian team does play according to the situation and wishes to play an attacking brand of cricket. However, they end up losing games with their uncertain approach in crucial contests. In the match against New Zealand in the T20 world cup, the Indian team tried hard to play attacking cricket, however, forgot their strength to assess conditions.
England and West Indies have the required batting depth to attack with freedom. However, the present Indian team doesn’t have the luxury to do so. In T20 cricket, having an attacking approach can benefit a team a lot on flat surfaces. On a tricky surface though, an attacking side requires to know ‘when’ and ‘how’ to attack. – Jos Buttler’s century against Sri Lanka in T20 World Cup 2021 is a master class of when and how to attack.
India’s Top Order: Flaws
We have seen India’s top order, getting out cheaply on a few occasions which leave the team in serious trouble. Here are a few flaws of India’s top order –
- Bowlers with pace and swing have troubled Indian batters upfront
- A t20 team usually has an aggressor in the top order to maximize powerplay. However, India’s top order consisted of Rohit Sharma, Kl Rahul and Virat Kohli usually takes time at the start of their innings
- Virat Kohli’s approach against spinners is a concern that needs an urgent fix as well
- For the opposition, it’s a bit easier to have a matchup and planning against Right hand dominated India’s top order
India’s Top Order: Revamp
With Rohit and Rahul set to be announced as next Captain and Vice-Captain and being the best players for India, they will retain their position. Virat Kohli being the match-winner can’t be thought to be out of the team.
Logically, for playing an aggressive brand of Cricket, a top-order should consist of two aggressors and one anchor who can play according to the situation. Virat Kohli is one of the best anchors in t20 cricket and will do that role. However, Rahul and Rohit have to play the role of the aggressor who has to attack from 1st ball. The other option is to push Kl Rahul in the middle and open space for the aggressor at the top.
However, The big question is – Will there be a shortest format transformation, without changing the man? Well, why not? If the team has good batting depth, it allows the top order to play freely. Here are a few options for India’s top order other than Rohit, Rahul and Virat –
1. Venkatesh Iyer
After the 2nd half of IPL 2021, new Iyer has emerged as one of the best contenders for India’s top order. With his ability to bowl a few overs, and being a left-hander has a slight edge over others. And the presence of an all-rounder at the top helps in forming the required batting depth.
He has performed well in the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy too. Moreover, he has played 51 T20 matches and scored 1212 runs with an average of 39 and Sr. of 134. However, Will he be able to perform consistently at the top as an aggressor? Well, leave that for the time being.
2. Ishan Kishan
This left-handed batter has performed whenever he got an opportunity. He can attack from 1st ball and thereby suits the bill of an attacking batter at the top. He can even bat in the middle order but his performances at the top are more effective.
3. Prithvi Shaw
His ability to score quick runs in powerplay makes him a prime contender for India’s opening slot. He fits the bill of an aggressor with his exceptional SR. of 160. Under Dravid, he might get good opportunities at the top too, considering his partnership with Dravid from U19 days.
4. Ruturaj Gaikwad
The top scorer of IPL 2021, Ruturaj is in outstanding form in the ongoing SMAT. He might not be the best fit for the aggressor role though. However, he has the ability to strike against spinners consistently. He could prove to be a good backup for the top order.
5. Mayank Agarwal
Mayank has shown his attacking skills in the powerplay in the past two IPLs. He has scored 441 runs with an SR of 140 and an average of 40 in last year’s IPL. His ability to attack in the powerplay and score big runs make him prominent contenders for India’s top order.
Sanju Samson, Devdutt Padikal, Shubhman Gill too are a few good options for India’s shortest format transformation. Devdutt and Shubman need to have one more brilliant IPL or Domestic season before they put across their case for the T20I team. The talent and caliber of Sanju Samson might be considered again but his consistency is a major concern.
We might not see a big change in top order but a change in approach can do enough for making a champion T20 side. Rahul Dravid has brought hope to Indian fans to win the ICC trophy and play a different brand of cricket. Let us all hope that he fulfills the wishes of millions of fans.
What are your thoughts?
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Part II & III of this series
Part II: Team India’s Shortest Format Transformation II – Middle Order
3rd & Last Part: Team India’s Shortest Format Transformation III – Bowling Department
Feature Image Credit: BCCI Twitter