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Florida weather may thwart India's batting plans

Jun 14, 2024 07:52 PM IST

Batting wasn't easy in New York but with the tournament heading into the Super Eight stage, Rohit would want his batters to get going

Three wins out of three. That was India’s expectation from the New York leg of this T20 World Cup, but the victories didn’t come in the manner they would have anticipated. After what seemed like a paradigm-shifting IPL where batting units ruled the roost like never before and notched up many totals in excess of 220, Rohit Sharma’s team is likely to have gone into the marquee event expecting the domination of bat over ball to continue even though international T20s are a whole different beast.

Groundsmen pull the covers off the field at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium in Lauderhill(AP)
Groundsmen pull the covers off the field at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium in Lauderhill(AP)

But the balance of play in India’s matches in the opening phase of the World Cup was distinctly different to events in the IPL. With the drop-in pitches at the makeshift Nassau County International Cricket Stadium (it has probably been taken down already) offering disconcertingly variable bounce — occasionally bordering on dangerous given that good-length balls were rearing up awkwardly — the men wielding the willow couldn’t hit through the line and look for fours and sixes with the frequency they usually would. A total of 120 — which is a run rate of no more than six per over — was crossed in only one of eight matches at the venue.

India’s bowlers, therefore, have had an enjoyable run, building pressure by cutting down boundaries and taking wickets at regular intervals to prevent partnerships from mounting. Jasprit Bumrah doesn’t really need any external assistance to stamp his mark, and so it isn’t surprising that he has been excellent as ever.

But the nature of the surfaces has made a substantial difference to Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Siraj’s performances. Both pacers entered this event on the back of an up-and-down IPL season where the pitches, frankly, were too loaded in the favour of the batters. These last three matches have served as cosy confidence-boosters.

India’s batters, on the contrary, haven’t been able to do any flexing. That should change in the final Group A game against Canada at the stadium in Lauderhill, Florida. The only hindrance may be the weather given the torrential rain that has lashed the small town in southeastern Florida over the past few days. India’s practice session on the eve of the match was cancelled.

In case the rain somehow stays away for a duration of four hours on Saturday morning, India’s batters will be looking forward to the prospect of making up for some subdued outings. Unlike Long Island, India have some experience of playing at the stadium in Central Broward Park, the first venue in US to receive certification from the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Having first toured that part of the world in 2016 for two T20Is against West Indies, India have played a total of eight T20Is — all against the same opposition — at the venue so far.

These matches were generally high-scoring. For example, the first T20I in 2016 saw India score 244/4 in response to West Indies’s 245/6 and lose by just one run. Last year, India chased down 179 in 17 overs with nine wickets in hand.

For Virat Kohli, this is an opportunity then to restore his high standards. Having faced criticism for his strike rate in the initial stages of the IPL, Kohli responded in the second half by scoring quickly from the very outset. Ironically, however, Kohli has paid the price for carrying that aggression into this World Cup. He shouldn’t really mind his mode of dismissals given that he has been looking for the attacking option, but he would dearly like a decent score after getting out on 1, 4 and 0 in the first three games of the campaign.

Although Rohit and Suryakumar have made a half-century each, they too are yet to find the rhythm that defines their batting in the shortest format. Shivam Dube and Hardik Pandya are also in a similar position.

The other interesting aspect will be the bowling combination India opt for. Having picked a squad that includes four specialist spinners and only three frontline seamers, they were expected to play a spin-heavy attack when they landed in America.

But the conditions in New York meant they had to rely on Bumrah, Arshdeep and Siraj to do a bulk of the work. Particularly once they head to the Caribbean for the Super Eight stage, the spinners will have more of a role. So against a Canadian team that is likely to be all at sea against wrist spin, Kuldeep Yadav will certainly fancy making his maiden appearance at this T20 World Cup.

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