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Nidahas Trophy: No Virat Kohli and too much India-Sri Lanka, but great chance to test depth

Rohit Sharma-led Indian cricket team, without key players including regular skipper Virat Kohli, will be tested by Sri Lanka and Bangladesh cricket team in the 2018 Nidahas Trophy T20 tri-series starting on Tuesday, but it is a great opportunity for the newcomers, writes the former India opener.

cricket Updated: Mar 06, 2018 16:33 IST
Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra
Hindustan Times
2018 Nidahas Trophy,Indian cricket team,T20 Tri Series
Indian cricket team captain Rohit Sharma (R) and Shikhar Dhawan during a training session at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Monday. The Nidahas Trophy tri-nation T20 tournament involving Sri Lanka cricket team, Bangladesh cricket team and India starts in Colombo on Tuesday.(AFP)

For the third time in eight months, another series involving India and Sri Lanka is upon us. While the mere thought of that is daunting, the fact that this time there’s another team (Bangladesh) involved might save the day for cricket. Personally, I prefer a multi-nation tournament over a bilateral limited-overs series, for the importance of bilateral ODI T20 series has diluted in the last 10 years.

Last month, India won their first-ever ODI series in South Africa, but the only relevant bits left in memory are the score line, Virat Kohli’s batting and the two wrist spinners wreaking havoc. Wasn’t there more to a six-match series than these? On the contrary, the Test series that happened in January has left a lasting imprint.

Cramped schedules

To stay fresh for the two-month tour of South Africa, India rested key players for the T20 leg of Sri Lanka’s tour of India. South Africa did the same thing against India to keep their core fresh and ready for the Test series against Australia. After a long and gruelling tour of South Africa, India have, once again, selected a second string team for the tri-series in Sri Lanka.

As a former player, I can understand the possibility of burnout and the need to stay fresh, and therefore the decision to rest the overburdened cricketers would make perfect sense. But now as a broadcaster and cricket fan I feel shortchanged if the series involving India doesn’t have Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

For a cricket fan, the whole purpose of a country versus country contest is to pit the best against each other but the current scheduling has made it untenable. The broadcaster, on the other hand, pays top dollar to buy the rights in the hope of exploiting the commercial potential, which takes a massive hit in the absence of key figures. Thankfully, this issue wasn’t lost on cricket’s world body and the new structure of bilateral cricket league couldn’t have come sooner. With something riding on every game and enough breathing space between two series, the world would see only the best competing against each other.

Chance to impress

India has rested six players for the tri-series, which will give opportunities to the selected players to stake a claim and the selectors to iron out the remaining few wrinkles.

In South Africa, Kohli relinquished his batting slot to allow Suresh Raina a safe passage back into International cricket. Since it’s a T20 tournament in Sri Lanka also, I’m expecting Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan to take turns to bat lower down the order to allow one of the younger players to make an impression.

Top-order rotation

In T20, batting opportunities are heavily skewed in favour of the top three, and therefore, it’s important to allow the younger players more time and space with the older hands taking over the tougher job of finishing the innings. There’s merit in pushing Rishabh Pant to the top of the order and push Raina back to where he’s likely to bat more often, at No 5. Deepak Hooda and Vijay Shankar are the other two players auditioning for the finisher’s role and, once played, should be given enough chances.

Indian limited-overs pace bowling has relied, sometimes too much, on the Bhuvneshwar-Bumrah combo and their absence will rightly test the next line of resources. For the first time Jaydev Unadkat, Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur will have to fend for themselves without the help of the senior men and that’ll be a good test of their skill set and evolution.

I’m expecting Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to surprise India on more than one occasion and that’s where it’ll be important for the team management and the fans to be patient, for a few losses must not take the focus away from the bigger picture.

(The writer is a cricket commentator and a former Indian Test team opener. The opinions expresses are personal)

First Published: Mar 06, 2018 09:03 IST