Will India take a T20 leap of faith?
Fearless players have emerged in this IPL, putting the onus on selectors to initiate a brave overhaul keeping in mind the 2024 T20 World Cup.
One of the many side-effects of watching IPL nerve shredders on the loop is the overwhelming sense of regret it can instill. More precisely, how 15 years of the most successful franchise-based T20 league is yet to embolden India into buying in the fearless style of cricket England are perfecting for a while now.
And since the hurt of a semi-final exit from the last T20 World Cup—handed by England no less, in the form of a disconcerting 10-wicket loss—is still very recent and very raw, maybe the conclusion of yet another eye-opening IPL is just the premise to put forth a burning question: Will India take the leap of faith?
For if you look back at this IPL, each of India’s problems have been more than addressed in this season by cricketers who play the way T20 should be played.
Also Read | 'There may not have been a Sachin…': Shubman Gill ends silence on being compared to Tendulkar, Virat KohliNeed a rampaging start? Don’t look beyond Shubman Gill and Yashasvi Jaiswal. Seeking a calm finisher? Rinku Singh ticks all the boxes. In Mohammad Shami and Mohammed Siraj have the IPL given us two of the best Powerplay fast bowlers of this season. Make Suryakumar Yadav and Shivam Dube the middle-overs enforcers, Ishan Kishan the wicketkeeper-batter, throw in Arshdeep Singh to introduce that left-right bowling matchup, add a dash of Yuzvendra Chahal and Varun Chakravarthy and this doesn’t remain a fantasy eleven anymore.
If India have to fight for its rightful place in the modern version of the game, the many functional parts of this IPL must come together.
Pandya, Jadeja and SKY as the coreSince the ICC is normalising annual World Cup cycles, India will hardly have much prep time before the 2024 T20 World Cup. But considering pitches in the Caribbean are similar to India, this IPL can be treated as the starting point of the change we might want to see. And it has to begin from the top.
While it’s pretty apparent Rohit Sharma won’t be in the fray, KL Rahul too must make way for a more dynamic and risk-taking opening duo in Jaiswal and Gill with Ruturaj Gaikwad as backup opener.
Virat Kohli is once again scoring heavily but in a fast lane of cricket where India need to be more counterintuitive, there is frankly no place for half-measures, especially if Kohli can’t open.
The phenomenal Suryakumar Yadav, therefore, can come in at No 3, both as the batting brain of the team as well as a third of the core that also comprises Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja who bring to the game a kind of belief that only winning cultures can inculcate.
On the cricketing front, Pandya and Jadeja can easily bowl out eight overs on a good day and allow India to play an additional batter. But more importantly, these three are easily the most forensic multi-tasking minds in white-ball cricket, knowing exactly what to do, and when—something India need now more than ever.
Experienced bowling, fearless battingFast bowling was never a concern for India. But bench Chahal at your own risk. At least that’s what the last two T20 World Cups should have taught India. A leg-spinner is hardwired to take wickets.
But Chahal is unlike any leg-spinner by being inexpensive about this routine IPL after IPL. And then in Chakravarthy, India tick the mystery spinner box with Jadeja’s left-arm sliders rounding off a slow bowling attack that has an economy of less than eight—a significant number given Caribbean pitches will be on the slower side.
Having said that, batting has been India’s Achilles heel in the World Cups. And nothing short of a drastic overhaul will suffice if India want to catch up with the world.
Opening with Gill and Jaiswal is only the first move. Following that act with measured doses of aggression, risking defeat in a relentless pursuit of victory, is a mindset India must nurture.
Which is why a hard reset is the only way to move forward. That means purging the batting of individual baggage and giving the freedom to go after bowlers, something Yadav, Dube, Tilak Varma, Rinku and Kishan have exploited to the hilt in this IPL to return jaw-dropping strike rates.