“Virat Kohli ko motivation ki zaroorat hai? Kya baat kar rahe ho yaar?” [Does Virat Kohli need motivation? What are you saying, my friend?]
That was Rohit Sharma earlier this year, laughing off a suggestion that one of the elite white-ball batters of this generation could be lacking in the zest quotient.
India’s refreshing new take to T20 batting may just be that push for Kohli, should he need it. His return to the XI could be at the expense of the latest centurion in the format, who in Southampton was part of the team’s first set of Nos. 3,4 and 5 to have each batted 10+ balls and still scored at a strike-rate in excess of 150.
The good news for Kohli is that in his last T20I, in Kolkata, he hit six fours from the first 15 balls he faced, an innings more in line with the current demands of this team.
“We have spoken about it a lot,” Rohit said about the team’s batting intent. “There is a certain approach we want to take. Yes, sometimes it comes off, sometimes it doesn’t, but you have to keep backing yourself to do that again and again,” Rohit said. “That’s why it is so challenging, because you can’t keep coming and doing the same thing every now and then.
“It is something we have spoken about, and all the players need to buy into it. Not just one or two players who understand what they want to do, but the whole batting unit coming together and understanding where the team wants to go. Guys seem to be pretty clear with that message.”
Kohli, though, is one of many returnees to the squad. Jasprit Bumrah remains a certainty, Rishabh Pant adds a left-handed presence to the middle-order and Shreyas Iyer has the weight of performances behind him. Each of them, though, will need matches to acclimatise to their specific roles and even to those around them. One wonders how India plan on juggling their series priorities with World Cup prep without compromising on their playing style.
On the other hand, England have never lacked for smarts themselves, with one of limited-overs cricket’s savviest men at the helm. As ever, they have a strapping top-order, but one that has misfired more often than the team would have liked. Jos Buttler’s strike-rate of 129.81 in the games post last year’s World Cup is the best among those that have featured in the top-four since. The likes of Jason Roy and Dawid Malan will need to step up at Edgbaston, especially in the face of a weaker bowling front, if England are to avoid their fourth-straight T20I series loss to India.
What to expect: Teams batting first have won five of the eight games in the T20 Blast this season. However, a sunny day awaits the two teams on Saturday, in stark contrast to the slew of shortened games that have been played here. If the last two full games are any representation, teams batting first have scored 228 and 186 and then bowled the opposition out cheaply. Rohit Sharma reckoned that bowling second in Southampton offered a little more nip in the air for the quicks, a factor that could be neutralised by this being a day game.
India have their big-name players, barring KL Rahul, available after a while and this is bound to disturb the continuity. Dinesh Karthik has been identified as the specialist finisher but there is perhaps no place for him and Rishabh Pant together unless India play Hardik Pandya as the third seamer and play a bowler light. Should they go with Pant, Pandya is likely to relinquish his more versatile No.5 role to reprise his old doyen of the death overs avatar one step lower in the order.
Possible XI: Rohit Sharma (c), Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant/ Dinesh Karthik (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Harshal Patel/Arshdeep Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal
Did you know?
– Former World No.1 batter Dawid Malan has an average of 27.00 and a SR of 117.39 since the start of 2021
– Since the start of the Sri Lanka series, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has 8 PowerPlay wickets at an economy of 4.50
– India’s gung-ho batting approach has fizzled off at the death in the last two games. In Dublin they made 48/6 in the last five overs and in Southampton the last seven overs saw them get 57/5
What they said:
“We were sloppy on the field. Those catches should have been taken. Pretty sure we will field pretty well in the coming games.” – Rohit Sharma saw a clear area of improvement after his team dropped as many as five catches in the series opener.