Ravi Shastri on the importance of the T20 series: “Absolutely [more significant than the ODIs]. It’s a lead-up to the World T20” © MARK GRAHAM/AFP/Getty Images
The biggest factor in India’s series defeat in Australia might have been the physicality of Australia’s game – running between the wickets and stronger arms from the deep – but in a game condensed to 20 overs per innings India might not need the same amounts of physical strength. Selectors world over seem to be realising that you need not look too far into the future when building T20 teams. If a player has a bit of an X-factor, he need not promise it for the next three to four years, which you want in ODIs and in Tests.
Australia have gone to Shaun Tait because he gives them the pace. It doesn’t matter that he will be 33 before the World T20 starts. Forty-four-year-old Brad Hogg is always part of conversations too. India have gone back to Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra and Harbhajan Singh. The youngest of them is Yuvraj at 34. India have been missing two aspects: experience with the ball and a big hitter who can go bang from ball one. For experience with seam bowling they have gone to Nehra. For big hitting they have two options: veteran Yuvraj or rookie youngster Hardik Pandya.
As India’s road to World T20 begins with their three-match T20I series against Australia, team director Ravi Shastri has welcomed the experienced hands back into the squad. While he is mindful that a balance between fitness and experience needs to be maintained, he also stated the fitness demands for T20s weren’t as stern. Talking about Nehra, he said: “It’s also about how fit you are. Between 50 overs and 20 overs, there is a big difference, because there is 30 extra overs of fielding and six extra overs to bowl, and that can take its toll. So it’s a big difference between Twenty20 cricket and 50-overs cricket. At the moment, we’ll wait and see how he goes in the T20 format.
“He has got a lot of experience. I think he has played two or three World Cups, and he has played a lot of T20 cricket. They’ve just come back from a domestic competition [the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20s], and experience is not bought or sold in the market, so when you get it, use it.
“It’s important to have the right mix of experience and youth. Like I said, there is no shortcut for experience. When it comes to the T20 format, bowling in the death – you’ve seen in the ODI series scores of over 300 in almost every game. Five years earlier you would have said 260. But with T20 cricket coming, the confidence of players is such that they take chances early and play the big shots. So there, as a bowler, you’ve got to have experience there to stop that hitting. You need that experience.”
— Rohit Sharma (@ImRo45) January 24, 2016
Shastri said he was hoping to see Yurvaj score big. “He’s an impact player with a proven record,” he said. “He has got a fabulous record in T20 cricket, he’s explosive and he’s a match-winner. If he fires early for us, nothing like it.”
Shastri said the team won’t be shy to try various combinations before the World T20: they have two T20I series and an Asia Cup before they lock in their best XV. “I think every game form here on till the World T20 will be extremely important,” Shastri said. “It gives you a chance to try different players and see what combination works best for you.
“Absolutely [more significant than the ODI series]. There’s no question about that. It’s a lead-up to the World T20, and there’s no other format of the game till we play that. It’s all T20 cricket. So it gives you an ideal opportunity: playing against a really tough opposition. But at the same time it gives you a chance to see what should be your best combination.
“It’s about getting the right combination for the conditions you will play in. If that means senior players have to play, they play. If that means juniors have to play, we’ll have more of that. We have 16 players here, it’s our job to pick the best XI.”
Lower demands of fitness then might herald a comeback for R Ashwin, India’s leading bowler in the last World T20, Man of the Series in their last two Test series, but dropped from the ODIs for what is widely believed to be slowness in the field. While three spinners in the final XI is more than a possibility in the World T20, it might be difficult to fit in all three in the Australian conditions though.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo