Focus on combination as India looks to draw level

The Indian batting line-up could see some changes for the second India vs Australia T20 in light of K. L. Rahul and Krunal Pandya's patchy form at the Gabba.

Consistency is need of the hour from K. L. Rahul, especially considering that he is also set to be a part of India’s top-order in the ensuing Test series.   -  AFP

Stung by a narrow loss in the opening match, India will like to reassess its playing combination while aiming for a swift turnaround against Australia in the second Twenty20 International in Melbourne on Friday.

The host took a 1-0 lead in the series, which comprises three back-to-back matches in the span of five days.

Having won seven consecutive bilateral T20 series, Virat Kohli and his men will certainly want to make it eight in a row and for that they may be forced to reshufffle both their batting and bowling combinations.

Bidding for an eighth victory on the bounce now doesn’t seem as straightforward a proposition as it looked earlier, with Australia ready to come all guns blazing after an all-round show in the first game.

The Indian batting line-up could see some changes in light of K. L. Rahul’s patchy form. Since scoring 101 not out in the first T20I against England in Manchester, Rahul hasn’t been able to cross the 30-run mark in six matches.

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The team management has persisted with him at No. 3 and benched Manish Pandey, with the skipper demoting himself to No. 4.

Consistency is need of the hour from Rahul, especially considering that he is also set to be a part of India’s top-order in the ensuing Test series.

The team management could also be tempted to have a relook at the bowling attack.

On a grassy surface, Krunal Pandya was plundered for 55 runs in his four wicket-less overs and was hit for as many as half a dozen sixes.

If the Melbourne Cricket Ground is also of Gabba’s nature, Kohli might be tempted to bring in leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, who boasts of a brilliant wicket-taking record in T20Is.

Even then, it remains to be seen if the team management rings in any changes after such a close defeat, especially when the balance is disturbed.

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Leaving Pandya out would leave the side a batsman short and Kohli might not be keen on taking that gamble. The loss, however narrow, has indeed cast such minute doubts on the Indian team’s strategic preparations in a format that it has dominated since July 2017.

In the lead-up to the first match, skipper Kohli had spoken about the need to cut down on mistakes and regaining an upper hand at crucial junctures of a game.

In Brisbane, the Men in Blue were found slacking in the field and it proved to be the ultimate difference in a seesaw game.

Even Kohli was guilty of poor effort on the field on at least two occasions, dropping counterpart Aaron Finch in the fourth over and being later involved in a misfield from the deep.

Australia boasts of bigger grounds than in India, with bigger boundaries of course, and the MCG will prove to be another humongous challenge in that regard.

It doesn’t help that there is such a short turnaround time during this series that fielding coach R. Sridhar won’t be able to work with the players at the MCG.

Any improvements in the field will have to be drilled in theoretically in the dressing room, and thus India will also seek to look at other areas where improvements can be made.

The ploy to introduce Adam Zampa as the lone spinner worked wonders for Australia and with an intense fielding effort, Australia was able to make a winning difference.

Things seem very different in the host’s camp all of a sudden, when the team were simply considered second best to the Men in Blue across all departments less than 48 hours ago.

Melbourne is experiencing a stormy spell in the latter half of this week, so there is a slight chance that the second T20I could also be rain-affected.

Teams

India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, K. L. Rahul, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Dinesh Karthik (wicketkeeper), Rishabh Pant, Krunal Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Khaleel Ahmed, Washington Sundar.

Australia: Aaron Finch (captain), Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Lynn, Ben McDermott, Glenn Maxwell, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa.