IND vs NZ, 1st T20I: Weary India, New Zealand gear up for another show
New Zealand, who finished the T20 World Cup runners-up on Sunday, begin a fresh series with the T20Is while the hosts too combat life in bio-bubbles
Less than 72 hours after New Zealand endured the heartbreak of defeat against Australia in the T20 World Cup final in Dubai—barely having had time to process their loss—the Black Caps will be turning out at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on Wednesday for the first of three T20Is against India. The cricket caravan will then head to Ranchi and Kolkata for T20Is before finishing with two Tests in Kanpur and Mumbai.
The timing of this bilateral series would have got more bizarre if India too had made the title showdown on Sunday. That this series was listed in the calendar so soon after the World Cup final suggests that not enough consideration is being shown to the plight of the players.
Not surprisingly, NZ skipper Kane Williamson has chosen to skip the T20Is before getting back on the treadmill for the Tests. Expect a few more of the Kiwi stars to sit out while the likes of Kyle Jamieson, Todd Astle and Mark Chapman, all of whom had limited game-time during the ICC event, may get a run. The luxury of rest isn’t available to Tim Southee at the moment though. He has been named captain for the T20I series and, unlike fellow seamer Trent Boult, will stay back for the Tests too.
SLIGHTLY BETTER OFF
India’s early exit meant they have had a little more time than their Kiwi counterparts, but nine days—their last game was on November 8—isn’t all that much either. Particularly when you consider the taxing schedule that they have had to endure since the start of the Test series against England in August. That series, which ended prematurely on September 10 with the fifth Test postponed to next year, was immediately followed by IPL from September 19 to October 15.
Nine days later, the Indian players were lining up for their T20 WC opener against no less than arch-rivals Pakistan. Since IPL began, their movement has been monitored under a strict bio-bubble as well.
Given India’s resources and financial muscle, though, the relentless scheduling doesn’t always invoke sympathy even if Jasprit Bumrah and now former bowling coach Bharat Arun have cited it as a possible factor in the performance. What is the solution then?
Some have suggested that separate teams for separate formats is the way forward for Indian cricket, especially given the talent pool. When India were playing the Test series in England, for instance, another team was simultaneously taking on Sri Lanka in a limited-overs series.
But Rahul Dravid, who was in charge of the team in Sri Lanka, shot the idea down in his first press conference as full-time India coach. Simply put, he would still want players of the calibre of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Bumrah to be playing all three formats.
“We are not at that point where we are looking at separate teams for separate formats. I would certainly want Rohit to be playing all the three formats for us… Of course, there are certain individuals who play particular formats of the game. We see that happening with most teams. Obviously, in times like this, we need to be in conversation with the players. The players’ physical and mental health is the most important thing. I would like to work with them. I would like to ensure that whenever they are playing, we have them fresh and fully switched on,” the former India captain said.
The upcoming calendar is no less onerous on the players. Once the New Zealand series ends on December 7, the Test contingent will sit on a plane and embark on a tour of South Africa for three Tests. And the gap between the two assignments? Ten days!
It is a non-stop affair thereafter with the Indian players caught in the heat of battle at least till the tour of England in July next year.
Amidst all this, there is also the challenge of putting right their recent record in ICC events. The Indians have been excellent in bilateral contests in the last couple of years, but as Dravid knows after the 2007 ODI World Cup debacle, teams are often judged by how they stack up in marquee events.
The T20 World Cup will again be held this time next year in Australia while 2023 has in store both the ODI World Cup and the World Test Championship final.
“We will not prioritise any one format at all. All three formats are critically important for us, there will be no let-up on how we prepare and plan for any of the three formats. We have three ICC events and we need to prepare for those events,” Dravid added.
Perhaps, India can take a cue from New Zealand, who are Test champions as well as runners-up in the ODI and T20I formats in the last three years. Life under the bubble, Southee admitted though, is taking a heavy toll on them too.
“With what’s happened in the world in the last couple of years, it’s made things a lot tougher with bubbles and quarantines. It does take its toll. A few players have been in a number of bubbles for long periods of time, so it does weigh you down after a while. So, hopefully, we don’t have to deal with bubbles for too much longer,” the stand-in NZ skipper said.