The memories of the World Cup final between India and Australia are still vivid, and for the Indian fan, the wound from the loss has barely begun to heal. It was a spectacular campaign for the hosts that only faltered at the final hurdle against the mighty Aussies. On Thursday, the same two teams will meet here at the Dr Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium to kick off a five-match T20 international series.
Unsurprisingly, India has opted for a new lineup, giving most of its World Cup squad a much-needed rest after a gruelling two-and-a-half months starting with the Asia Cup in September. Only three players, Suryakumar Yadav - who will lead the team - Ishan Kishan, and Prasidh Krishna, continue from the one-day squad.
Though cricket’s marquee event just ended, the next big event, the ICC T20 World Cup, is only seven months away. With India set to play just 11 international T20 matches from now till June next year, apart from the Indian Premier League, the preparations for the tournament in the West Indies and the U.S. will begin in earnest here on Thursday.
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Since winning the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, India has had a poor run in the tournament, reaching the summit clash only once, in 2014, where it lost to Sri Lanka. In last year’s event in Australia, England blew India away by ten wickets in the semifinals.
The squad for this series includes many youngsters, many of whom have shown promise in the IPL and were part of the successful tour to Ireland and at the Asian Games. But the next ten days will be their first real chance to test their skills against a top-quality international outfit and stake a claim for a more consistent run with the national side.
It will be interesting to see if Ishan Kishan dons the big glove or if Jitesh Sharma, who practised his keeping skills on Wednesday, is the custodian behind the stumps. The series also offers a chance for all-rounder Axar Patel to get back into the groove after missing the World Cup due to a quadricep strain.
On the other hand, Australia will have as many as seven players from the World Cup-winning squad for this series, with wicket-keeper bat Matthew Wade leading the side. With conditions in the West Indies likely to be similar to India, the Men in Yellow will want to make full use of the chance to get some of its young players to acclimatise to spinning pitches.
Though Travis Head, Steve Smith, and Glenn Maxwell are part of the squad, skipper Wade insisted they won’t be pressured into playing the first match. Despite resting its frontline quicks, Australia has a strong bowling attack led by pacers Sean Abbott, Nathan Ellis and Jason Behrendorff, with leg-spinners Adam Zampa and Tanveer Sangha to complement them.
While the scheduling of this series might not be ideal, coming just four days after an exciting World Cup final, Suryakumar Yadav’s men will look to overcome Sunday’s loss and start preparations for India’s next big target.
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