As captain, Virat Kohli has so far treaded an unconventional path in matters of selection. He is bizarrely unpredictable when it comes to Test cricket, often gunning for a horses-for-courses policy, while in limited-overs’ cricket, he strives for a consistent team selection.
Perhaps this is the keenest differentiation from the previous captain, MS Dhoni, a trait that often goes missing from observation given the ice-and-fire disparity between their on-field demeanours. Dhoni liked consistency in the longer formats, while he was unpredictable in the shorter ones. One thing is still common though — they both keep you guessing.
Even so, for the first time in a long while, there is a certainty about Kohli’s selection on Friday for the second T20I against Ireland. “We are looking to give everyone game-time and want them to portray the qualities they possess because many guys go on tour and never get an opportunity to play,” he had said in the post-match presentation on Wednesday, laying his cards down in an unprecedented manner.
Maybe it is to do with the opposition. No disrespect to Ireland, but the gap in quality between the two sides is pretty wide, and cannot be bridged for at least another couple years, let alone in two days. On the flip side, this could allow for complacency to creep in. Yet, the mega important England tour on the horizon prevents it from happening. There is a challenge in the offing, and it has been duly accepted.
On Thursday then, seven members of the Indian contingent here arrived for practice at the Malahide Cricket Club. Kohli, Dhoni, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, Umesh Yadav, Siddarth Kaul and KL Rahul – do you know what’s the common thread among them? Well, they could all feature in the game on Friday.
India are set to ring in nearly wholesale changes to the side, and it will be surprising if these names aren’t all included along with the two openers – Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan – and the two spinners – Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. There is a case for dropping the extra batsman, and including either Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Jasprit Bumrah to make sure Kohli has five bowling options available. Or simply, Hardik Pandya won’t lose his spot and come in place of Pandey.
What favours India is also the fact that the pitch at The Village played to their strengths, and only further increased the wide chasm between the two sides. It was plain to see that the Irish batsmen have not faced quality spin with variation in pace alone enough to beat them through the air. The square won’t have quickened up any better under the belting summer sun, and it is fairly obvious that wrist spin will once again be the dominant factor.
“I don’t think the result would have been any different if the spinners had bowled first or second on that wicket. We just need to figure out a way to play them before the next game,” Ireland skipper Gary Wilson had said on Wednesday. It is too much to expect an upset from them, although batting first could be a better alternative for the hosts for this second game.
In that light, wholesale rotation for the Indian XI is a keen plan to get the whole squad warmed up nicely for the T20Is and ODIs against England, and the real examination of Kohli’s selection permutations/combinations will begin next week in Manchester. Meanwhile, Ireland will be hoping there is some chink in the armour of India’s second-choice XI.
There are two points of consideration for India, though. Their fielding – and catching therein – wasn’t up to scratch in the first game. Secondly, Kohli got out for a two-ball duck. Now, it isn’t much to write home about, given that he came down the order and in the last over of the innings had to swing for the rope.
The skipper will be keen to bat at his usual No 3 position on Friday and get some runs under his belt. And it is imperative to do so, because landing in Manchester this weekend without any sizeable runs against Ireland will only feed the hungry media sharks that have been awaiting this summer. The last thing India need is a repetition of 2014.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Siddarth Kaul.
Ireland: Gary Wilson (c & wk), Andrew Balbirnie, Peter Chase, George Dockrell , Josh Little, Andy McBrine, Kevin O'Brien, William Porterfield, Stuart Poynter, Boyd Rankin, James Shannon, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson.
Match starts at: 8.30 pm IST.