CHENNAI: More than a month after they arrived on Indian shores, you finally seem to get the feeling there could be a mouth-watering contest on offer, where two evenly matched sides lock horns. With the T20 World Cup scheduled for October-November, the India vs England five-match series starting Friday gains weightage.
They may not admit it openly, but England are the team that India want to be, especially in limited-overs. On Thursday, Virat Kohli was asked if his side will be the favourites to lift the T20 World Cup, and the Indian captain instead picked England. “I actually think it is England who will be the team to beat. They are the number one side in the world and the prime focus will be on them. All other teams will be wary of their strength, what they bring to the park,” Kohli said.
Kohli is a captain full of pride. He will seldom write an opponent team’s name before his. Here he was putting his team below England. Maybe it is a mind game. But if it is indeed a frank assessment, Kohli couldn’t have been any more precise. For years, England have been the stand-out team in limited-overs and after winning the 50-over World Cup at home in 2019, they are now chasing the T20 World Cup.
Then there is Kohli’s India. A team that has had a paradigm shift in how they go about their T20s. They have lost only two bilateral series since 2016 and won 13 out of their last 15 matches. But England are going to be their biggest test, a series that will show where exactly they stand and where they need to work on in the next seven months before the party begins at home in the festival period.
Over the years India have seen others benefit from their IPL and there is no bigger testament to it than England. And now India seem to have finally woken up. Gone are the days they expected their ODI players to fit in the T20 scheme of things. Today, India like England and Australia to an extent, have started to bring in T20 specialists, who don’t necessarily put a price on their wicket.
“We have played with a certain kind of pattern in the past. We did not have a big tournament to work towards in the past. If you look at the squad, the additions we have made, we have tried to address a few things we needed in specific. Guys who can be X-factors with the bat and do things which are the need of the hour in T20 cricket. These guys have done so on a regular basis in the IPL so we have tried to cover all those basics. Now it will be interesting to see how they go about in these five games,” Kohli said.
Having such players means, teams tend to play a lot more aggressive and high-risk cricket where they are forever looking to seize the initiative through boundaries. By opting for such approach, there could be off-days too where hit and miss may not work. But at least, India are not looking to hold themselves back anymore. “We have explosive guys in the team who can change the game at any stage and that is exactly what we have tried to address. This time around, you will see guys playing more freely, more expressive in terms of approaching the innings even after we have lost couple of wickets which wasn’t the case to be honest because we did not have enough depth in the batting to play freely for about 10 to 12 overs,” Kohli said.