India’s number six conundrum continues ahead of T20 World Cup
With five months to go before next year’s World Twenty20 at home, former champions India’s search for an enforcer in the lower middle order shows no sign of ending anytime soon.
India mostly play one-off matches in the shortest format of the game and are ranked sixth in the world, just behind South Africa who won the first two games of a three-match series with the final Twenty20 abandoned due to a wet outfield in Kolkata.
Winners of the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007, India will play more 20-over matches in Australia and at home against Sri Lanka early next year as they look to seal their best combination for the March 11-April 3 biennial tournament.
“As a unit we have played very little T20 cricket in bilateral series,” team director Ravi Shastri told reporters after Thursday’s abandoned match.
“It’s a young team, we’re still figuring out on what will be our best combination and the best way forward.”
Shastri was right in pointing at the relative inexperience of the side in Twenty20 Internationals even though the players are well-versed with the format and feature regularly in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Though teeming with exciting strokemakers, most of the India top and middle order batsmen need time to get their eyes in before they can accelerate.
The brevity of the format does not always allow such luxury and while India do not have a power-hitter of the calibre of Australian Glenn Maxwell or West Indian Kieron Pollard, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina have often provided the late flourish.
Unfortunately for them, Dhoni looked out of touch and Raina unsure of his role in the two matches against South Africa.
India tried Ambati Rayudu too but the 30-year-old is clearly not the answer to their quest for a player who can tear apart the opposition in the final five overs.
“We are very keen to see the month of December when all the one-day competitions are scheduled,” former India captain Shastri added.
“The No. 6 position has a different role in 50-over cricket, but an extremely important role in T20 cricket.
“The team that goes on to win the World T20, you will see that their No. 6 batsman could be a very crucial player.”