It’s been 10 years since Twenty20 was introduced and nothing has made as much impact in the world of cricket since Kerry Packer’s ‘pyjama’ game in the 1970s. For reasons good or bad, T20 has hogged the headlines with India turning into its global home because of the Indian Premier League.
Thanks to its commercial viability, T20 is the name of the game now, but mainly in the club format.
At international level it’s a sideshow with one-off games scheduled at the start or end of the main series. So will it be in the India-Australia limited overs series.
For all the hype, Thursday’s T20 international at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, only India’s 10th T20I at home, will serve as the opening ceremony for the seven-match ODI series.
The only event that matters in the slam-bang version of the game is the World T20 — the inaugural edition of which triggered the T20 revolution after India’s stunning victory. For those with ambition to be counted among the best across all formats, it’s the stage where you need to make a mark in T20 cricket.
Its next edition is in March and in this context the match assumes significance — an opportunity to build the nucleus of that team.
Being a one-off tie, there is a tendency to take it lightly, but Team India has much work to do to be a force in Bangladesh. The legend of MS Dhoni was born in the inaugural edition in 2007, but since then India’s performance under him has been embarrassing. They failed to make the semifinals in 2009 (England), 2010 (West Indies) and 2012 (Sri Lanka).
Hence, there was a strong case to experiment with new leadership, an ideal situation to try out someone like Virat Kohli.
Dhoni’s credentials as a T20 player are unmatched and he has had roaring success as Chennai Super Kings skipper.
But there are good reasons why Kohli could be tried out, the heavy load on Dhoni being the main one. And being the captain-in-waiting, it would be a good way to ease Kohli into cricket’s most high pressure job.
Playing without the burden of captaincy, Dhoni could prove even more devastating with the bat while the lively Kohli could infuse fresh life into India, who have looked listless every time they have gone into the World T20 since 2007.
The selectors tested Kohli’s leadership by giving him a full run in the ODI series in Zimbabwe. Though the Africans are not a strong opposition, he led the team to a clean sweep.
From the comments of the two captains ahead of the series opener, one could sense all the attention was focused on the ODIs.
Even for the 2015 World Cup (50 overs), the Indian Board already has a roadmap in place. Ironically, there has been no mention of a plan for the WT20.
As there are not many opportunities to build your national team in T20, planning for this game is vital to achieve the bigger goal ahead.