Experiment is the buzzword as India prepare to take on Ireland in the second and final T20 International, aiming to strike the perfect balance while ringing in the changes here tomorrow.
The Men in Blue got their three-month long tour of Ireland and England off to a fine start with a 76-run win on Wednesday.
Riding on half-centuries from Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, India scored 208-5. Thereafter Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal shared seven wickets to restrict the Irish to 132-9.
It indicated that India’s first-choice eleven was functioning properly after a break of three months, and tuning itself for the England tour.
The big question is of bench strength and chances for the likes of KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik and Umesh Yadav.
“…we are going to do a lot of experiments in the middle order…We are looking to give everyone game-time and want them to portray the qualities they possess because many guys go on tour and never get an opportunity to play,” said skipper Virat Kohli post the first T20I.
It indicates that India have zeroed in on Rohit and Dhawan as their first-choice opening combination for the limited-overs’ leg of this tour.
It also confirms that Rahul will bat in the middle-order whenever an opportunity presents itself, and it could be as early as the next game, keeping the England series in mind.
Kohli’s words though do not shine enough light on whether India will go in for wholesale changes to their bowling attack as well.
Talking after the game he did say that ‘looking at the squad, the changes are obvious’. Yet, at the same time, there are a few names that cannot be left out Rohit, Dhawan, Kohli himself, Dhoni and the two leg spinners.
India will have an advantage from the fact that the pitch for the second T20I is expected to play much in the same fashion as on Wednesday.
Both Kuldeep and Chahal were able to garner purchase from the strip, and Ireland skipper Gary Wilson went as far as to say that it “wouldn’t have mattered if they had bowled first or second”. Clearly, the gap in quality between the two sides is too far to bridge even for this gutsy Irish side.
Barring an unimaginable upset then, India do have the luxury of going with a batsman short and accommodating an extra bowler.
Kohli’s mantra of giving chances to those sitting on the bench could be extended to the bowling line-up as well, where both Umesh Yadav and Siddarth Kaul are raring to go and longing for game time.
It is easily noticeable that the team management is reluctant to drop both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah whenever they are fit and available.
Leaving out Pandya for three full-time pacers and two spinners still gives Kohli five bowling options, enabling him to leave out Suresh Raina and Manish Pandey to bring in both Rahul and Karthik.
There is also the small matter of getting some time at the crease for himself after Kohli got out for a two-ball duck on his first outing on this tour.
While it is too early to worry about, it did ring in memories of his troubles in 2014 where he just couldn’t buy a run, irrespective of formats.
Irrespective of the scope of team changes, on the strength of their batting and bowling, India will be firm favourites going into this second game.
Fielding though is a different matter, and the coaching staff will be expecting a better display from the Indian players than in their first outing.
As many as three outfield catches were dropped in the power-play overs, and a stronger opposition like England will definitely punish these errors.
For Ireland, it won’t simply be a matter of turning up on the day. While the 200-plus target was far beyond their reach, they showed enough wherewithal to stick out in the middle and attempt to compete.
Asking for an upset on Friday will be too much, but they remain capable of springing a surprise or two on home soil. The biggest incentive for the hosts is another chance to play against one of the top T20 sides in the world in front of a festive and raucous crowd.