The skies remained a crisp blue, the air was a shade nippy but with the sun largely on display, Melbourne seems to have finally got past its unseasonal rains. Hopefully it stays this way through the weekend as India is scheduled to play its last Group 2 match against Zimbabwe here on Sunday.
The Men in Blue touched down on Thursday and rested on Friday while keeping an eye on the battles ahead as the ICC Twenty20 World Cup hurtles towards its business-end. Currently placed atop the group, India dealt with two close games against Pakistan and Bangladesh while suffering a loss to South Africa. And with the race for semifinal berths heating up, India and South Africa should sail through unless some upsets happen with Zimbabwe and Netherlands playing the spoiler. Based on current form and judging on relative merits, a twist in the tale seems unlikely.
So far India has retained its core players with the ‘Deepak Hooda for Axar Patel swap’ just happening once against South Africa. Rohit Sharma had spoken about all players being ready and how that could facilitate changes based on conditions and the opposition. However, it remains to be seen if the skipper would stick to the tried and tested for the next three games, presuming that his men qualify for the final.
There was a time when the left-component in Indian squads had a strong impact. Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, R.P. Singh and Irfan Pathan at varying points were all part of the mix, showcasing their diverse skills as either batters or bowlers or being both. Cut to the present, with Ravindra Jadeja being ruled out and Rishabh Pant warming the benches, seamer Arshdeep Singh and spinner Axar Patel are the remaining primary left-handed athletes while Shikhar Dhawan is part of the ODI set-up.
The left-quotient often hassles rival skippers and batters. Setting alternate fields for a right-left combine or lining up to play a left-arm speedster emerging from a right-hand batter’s blind-spot and that too coming at an angle, have always been difficult. It is something that the management and selectors may consider even as the present unit has to ideally be in the ‘here and now’ Down Under.
That a transition is imminent is obvious from the multiple squads announced for the New Zealand and Bangladesh tour with there being enough signs about this fortnight being perhaps the last in international white-ball cricket for R. Ashwin and Dinesh Karthik. The duo was missing in the T20 and ODI teams announced for the tours. Equally, cricketers tend to look at World Cups as perhaps full-stops to bring closure to their careers.
A lot could be happening between the ears and the coaching staff needs to keep an eye as in either trying to pause or looking too far ahead could mean an opportunity is missed now. Additionally there is the title-drought in ICC events which India needs to address and next week may offer a solution.