Asia Cup: India’s last chance to fine-tune T20 team


With five wins in six Twenty20 internationals, India’s starting XI has probably selected itself for the upcoming Asia Cup starting February 24. But with the ICC World Twenty20 three weeks away, the tournament in Bangladesh allows the Indian team one last shot at zeroing in on their best combination as well as testing out the bench strength.

After the landmark 3-0 sweep of Australia and 2-1 series win over Sri Lanka in the space of a couple weeks, India’s T20I outfit can be said to be ahead of the curve and the team that will play New Zealand in Nagpur on March 15 more or less finalised. As MS Dhoni’s side enters its final phase of fine-tuning before the World Twenty20, let’s take a look at a few areas of importance.

Yuvraj still looks rusty

Six matches, three innings, 25 runs, two wickets and an economy rate of 7.77. So far, the Yuvraj experiment – it has to be termed that because his selection was largely about what he can offer at the age of 34, and not on T20 form – hasn’t produced anything special. Subtract his wickets of Glenn Maxwell twice and that top score of 15 in the tense Sydney chase, and Yuvraj has made 11 runs in two innings and conceded 44 runs in five wicketless overs.

This form should not be surprising, if you’ve paid attention to what Yuvraj did in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the domestic T20 competition, after being recalled to India’s squad. While the ODIs were on in Australia, Yuvraj scored 56 runs in three innings at a strike-rate of 107.69 – one that in today’s level of competitive T20 cricket doesn’t impress. In one innings he made 54 of those runs.

With the ball, he took two wickets in four games while conceding 8.64 an over. Clearly, Yuvraj was not in T20 form when he returned to the side in Australia. It showed too, in that scratchy 15 not out which consumed five dot balls – an innings reminiscent of his previous innings in the 2014 World Twenty20 final – and had five runs off nine balls against his name going into the last over from which India wanted 17 runs. Two length deliveries from Andrew Tye got Yuvraj ten runs, but it could have been very different had a more experienced death bowler got it right.

India may have missed a good opportunity to test out Yuvraj during the last T2OI against Sri Lanka when they lost Rohit Sharma in the sixth over of a chase of just 83 runs. It was a chance to allow him time to get back into groove, with a small target and many overs. Instead the management went for Ajinkya Rahane, a batsman who won’t make the XI when Virat Kohli returns. Earlier in the same game, Yuvraj’s only over cost 15 runs with a huge full toss and the ensuing free hit being heaved for sixes.

If Rahane is required, where does he bat?

“Rahane, at the end of the day, is a fantastic player but you also have to consider the fact that in Twenty20, he is somebody who has done really well when he is opening the batting.”

With that comment recently, Dhoni shut the door on Rahane finding a place in the XI with Kohli back. But should any of the primary batsmen get injured or merit being dropped, where will India fit Rahane in? Rahane is held in high regards within the team set-up but prima facie, is best suited to bat in the top three. Beyond that, India have Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni and Hardik Pandya to use if the need of the moment is big, quick runs.

Rahane will not have dispelled many doubts about his ability to score runs at a brisk pace on subcontinent-style surface during his most recent innings, a 24-ball 22 not out against Sri Lanka which featured several mistimed attempts to clear the infield.
In the recent Sri Lanka matches, Rahane batted at Kohli’s one-down spot and made four, 25 off 21 balls and 22 not out off 24 balls – an innings that will not have dispelled many doubts about his ability to score runs at a brisk pace on subcontinent surfaces.

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