Team India lost a great opportunity to secure their first Test series win in England since 2007. After dominating the Birmingham Test for the majority of the first three days, they floundered and conceded the game on a platter to England.
India hardly have any time to ponder over the loss though. The action will now quickly shift to the white-ball format, as the Men in Blue will take on the hosts in a three-match T20I series, which starts on Thursday (July 7). The series will kick-off with a game at The Rose Bowl in Southampton.
The visitors will then return to the venue of their Test defeat, at Edgbaston in Birmingham, for the second T20I on July 9. The concluding game of the series will be played the very next day at Trent Bridge in Nottingham.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President Sourav Ganguly, in an interview a few weeks back, had said that the Men in Blue will play most of the players likely to feature in the T20 World Cup starting with the England series.
On that note, let’s look at three key focus areas for Team India in the T20I series against England.
#1 Lack of runs from Rohit and Kohli’s blade
Skipper Rohit Sharma is the all-time leading run-getter in T20I cricket, while Virat Kohli is at No. 3 on the list. Apart from these two Indians, only New Zealand’s Martin Guptill has scored 3000-plus T20I runs. At their peak, the Indian duo were two of the most destructive players in the format. Things have changed quite drastically in recent times though.
Both Rohit and Kohli had forgettable IPL 2022 campaigns for their respective franchises. Opening the innings, Rohit failed to register a single fifty in 14 matches for the Mumbai Indians (MI), while star Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) batter Kohli ended the edition with three golden ducks to his name. Both were surprisingly rested for the subsequent T20I series against South Africa at home.
In his last five T20Is, Rohit’s scores read 19, seven, 44, one and five. He recently missed the rescheduled Test in Birmingham after testing positive for COVID-19. So there could be concerns over him being rusty as well. Kohli did score a fifty in his last T20I match for India, but that came back in February against West Indies.
Over the last few months, he has looked ragged across formats. Team India will need their star batters to lift their game with an eye on the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year.
#2 Can Pant convert his Test form into white-ball success?
We have seen two versions of Rishabh Pant in international cricket so far. One that has taken the cricketing fraternity and fans by storm with his exhilarating performances in Test cricket.
The other has been a poor version of the batter, who has struggled to replicate the success in white-ball cricket, which is strange because his aggressive batting is better suited to limited-overs formats. But then, that’s just the beauty of this gentleman’s game.
With the T20 World Cup just months away and the stunning resurgence of Dinesh Karthik, India might find themselves in a quandary over who should be their keeper-batter at the ICC event. For India to stick with Pant convincingly, they will need him to perform much better than he has done so far in T20 cricket.
Like Rohit and Kohli, Pant too had a poor IPL 2022 campaign with the willow. He never looked in any sort of rhythm and posted a highest score of 44 in 14 games, although his strike rate of 151.79 was impressive.
The numbers were even worse in the home series against South Africa, for which he was the stand-in captain - 58 runs in five matches at an average of 14.50 and a strike rate of 105.45. Team India will desperately need Pant to fire in T20Is for him to be a certainty for the World Cup.
#3 Bowler Hardik Pandya needs to come to the fore
All-rounder Hardik Pandya had a stupendous IPL 2022 campaign. Leading debutant franchise Gujarat Titans (GT), he guided the side to the title in their maiden season in the T20 league.
The 28-year-old displayed brilliant form with the bat, smashing 487 runs at an average of 44.27 and a strike rate of 131.26. Hardik carried on the great form into the series against South Africa as well, playing some crucial knocks on his Indian comeback.
The concerns over his bowling, though, remain. He did claim eight wickets in the IPL, and bowled a brilliant spell of three for 17 in the final against the Rajasthan Royals (RR). He did not bowl frequently though. In the home series against South Africa, he did not pick up a single wicket and was very expensive in the few overs that he bowled.
On the basis of his brilliance with the willow, he was appointed captain for the two-match T20I series against Ireland in Dublin. While India won both games, Hardik was again unconvincing with the ball. He ended the series with one wicket at an average of 44 and an economy rate of 11.
In a nutshell, while his return to Team India is great news, Hardik the bowler is still a work in progress.