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Close-in: India favourites to win T20 series vs England
Mumbai, March 12, 2021
The Indian team's remarkable win against England in the recent Test series makes them the strong favourites to win the five-match T20 battle as well. The Indian side comprises many of the players who have done extremely well against England in the longer format and that too at the newly laid pitch of the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
The Indian players are mentally in a very positive frame of mind and have now experienced the pitches in Ahmedabad. Their victory has been a big booster and this itself should make them feel comfortable and confident. England have brought in their specialist limited overs players, and many of them will encounter the difficult conditions in Ahmedabad for the first time.
In both Test matches in Ahmedabad, the wicket was not a typical Indian one. The ball spun sharply and there was awkward bounce as well. This will make batting difficult, especially in the T20 format. One feels that the initial matches will be low scoring affairs. Spin will play a major part, as batsmen will have problems playing across the line or stepping out to play their shots.
The Ahmedabad wicket will be the venue for the T20 World Cup final this year and both India and England will use these five T20 matches as an opportunity to get their core players accustomed to the conditions.
England have won a record seven series in a row coming into this series. India are not far behind, having not lost in any of their last seven series and with five continuous series wins under their belt. India's last two victories were both overseas and that too against Australia and New Zealand.
The IPL, furthermore, being a T20 tournament has been a major factor for India to unearth many new exciting youngsters. The Indian cupboard is full of players, each one as talented and skilled to replace one another.
India's problem would be to finalise the best in-form eleven players to take the field during the World Cup. This may be a comfortable and wonderful problem at hand, but could be tricky as well.
The series against England is an ideal opportunity for India to induct the young players who have shown their potential, mental toughness and confidence, not only in Australia but also in the recently concluded series against England.
Finger spinners will play a major part on the Ahmedabad track and India will need to play both Axar Patel and Washington Sundar, not only because they are in the midst of a purple patch, but also because they would be difficult to hit. The superb form of Rishabh Pant has solved many problems as regards the depth of the Indian batting, and along with Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, K.L. Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, and Suryakumar Yadav, the top six look very formidable.
The good news for India is that Hardik Pandya is fit to bowl. He is a very important piece in the Indian line-up, as apart from his big hitting capabilities as a batsman, his bowling brings in the third pace bowling option. India need to also nurse Shardul Thakur as he has shown that he has the capability and potential to develop into a useful lower order batter apart from his bowling acumen. He needs to be given a chance because of the way he performed for India in Australia.
The return of Bhuvneshwar Kumar is wonderful for India and along with Jasprit Bhumrah and Mohammed Shami they would make a lethal combination.
The T20 is a format that gives every team a glimpse of hope of victory. Predicting a win is very difficult, as teams need to play aggressive and bold and in doing so many have fallen into despair. This is what makes the game exciting for the millions of viewers.
England, the limited overs world champions and at present the number one T20 side in the world, will definitely fancy their chances of taking revenge on India for their Test series defeat.
Eoin Morgan, their captain, has played enough of IPL cricket in India. He is an astute leader and with Ben Stokes by his side along with the likes of Jos Buttler, the new sensation Dawid Malan, Jason Roy, Moeen Ali, and Jonny Bairstow, he has just the players to cause India to worry.
One would have loved to see 110,000 spectators cheering and rooting for India at the Narendra Modi Motera stadium, how electrifying it would have been. But due to Covid-related restrictions that is not possible now. However, it will be a fitting venue where one hopes and prays India play the final of the T20 World Cup. The crowd support itself should be enough to put any opponent into a tizzy.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal)