One of the key areas where India needed to give serious thought was the lower-middle order, and the form of Yuvraj Singh and skipper MS Dhoni.
In their opening Asia Cup match against Bangladesh on Wednesday, Yuvraj finally spent some time at the crease after the top order collapsed. He scored 15, but it was a scratchy innings and he failed to make an impact. Dhoni, who suffered back spasm two days before the game, led the team, but let Hardik Pandya bat ahead of him, at No 6. The skipper faced two deliveries and scored eight, including a last-ball six in the innings.
After the back-to-back T20 series against Australia and Sri Lanka, what was apparent was the lack of time the senior pros spent in the middle. Including Wednesday’s game, both have yet to score more than 15 runs in an innings in the last seven matches.
THE KEY MEN
Across the team, the duo’s form remains the sketchiest. In the World Twenty20, as seniors both would be expected to be the driving force around whom the team will function, especially in pressure situations in the high-stakes tournament.
India’s batting depth has meant the two have hardly got time to settle down. Often, they have arrived to bat past the 18th over.
After the conclusion of the three-match series against Sri Lanka, Dhoni had promised more exposure to those who have yet to get match time. And before the Asia Cup, Dhoni ruled out promoting himself up the order. On Wednesday, he followed up on that statement by sending Pandya ahead. It was the youngster’s 18-ball 31 and a brilliant 61-run partnership with Rohit Sharma (83) in 27 deliveries that turned the tide for India.
Dhoni’s muscle spasm could have influenced him to take the call, considering that India were placed precariously and need someone who could push for runs and take quick singles.
Dhoni had pulled up with back problem during training on Monday. Parthiv Patel was rushed as back-up, though Dhoni eventually decided to play. The decision to play suggested that, with the World T20 around the corner, he wanted to play himself in. But that didn’t happen.
NOT CASHING IN
Unlike Dhoni, Yuvraj faced 16 deliveries and got his eye in on a green wicket. However, he could not quite hit ball as well as he is known to. He perished trying to loft one, bringing an end to another innings that did little to instill confidence.
Although Pandya chipped in with a crucial knock, the impact of an in-form Dhoni or Yuvraj can change the complexion of the game more often than not. It’s an ingredient that has been missing so far in the build-up to the WT20.
India next face Pakistan on Saturday and might not tinker with the side, considering the stakes involved. And a brisk knock from either of them can never be ruled out.