Since the last World T20, India has played five T20 internationals and lost four of them. Their last T20I series, against South Africa, ended in a 2-0 defeat at home. Thus the three-match KFC T20 Series against Australia, which begins India's build up to the 2016 World T20, assumes much significance. India's squad is vastly different from the one named for the South Africa series, with little over a month left to work out the best eleven for the World T20.
“Absolutely [these games are more significant than the ODI series], there’s no question about that,” Ravi Shastri, India's Team Director, said on the eve of the first T20I at the Adelaide Oval here. “It’s a lead-up to the World T20 and there’s no other format of the game we play till then. It gives you a chance to try different players and see what combination works best for you.”
Shastri was full of praise for the returning pair of Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra. “He’s an impact player with a proven record. He’s explosive, a match-winner. If he fires early for us, nothing like it,” he said of Yuvraj. “[Nehra] has got a lot of experience. I think he’s played two or three World Cups and he’s played a lot of T20 cricket. They’ve just come back from a domestic competition, and experience is not bought or sold in the market, so when you get it, use it,” he added.
Shastri sounded a note of caution, though, when asked if Nehra should have found a place in the ODI side too, given the form of India's bowlers. “He's experienced and like I said that's always valuable. But 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. At the moment, we’ll wait and see how he goes in the T20 format,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Australia captain, Aaron Finch, admitted that Usman Khawaja's exclusion had increased the pressure on all batsmen in the side. “The difficult thing is who don't you bring into the side. It's a good pressure to have that within the squad,” he said. The omission of Khawaja, who has been in stunning form, from the sides for this T20 series and the subsequent tour to New Zealand, has been a big point of debate.
The National Selector Rod Marsh, however, stated that the left-hander was almost certain to figure in the World T20 squad.
Australia had taken note of India's team changes, Finch stated. “We'll have individual plans for Raina and Yuvraj and everyone,” he said.
Australia will miss the services of Glenn Maxwell in the first game, but this series was about experimenting with various players ahead of the World T20, Finch felt. “There's going to be some chopping and changing, just to see what the best make up of the team is,” he said.
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