Nidahas Trophy 2018: Time to push the tempo for India

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THE INDIAN team had been cooped up indoors for nearly four days before they popped up at the Premadasa Stadium on Sunday. That is except, of course, when they showed up and put Bangladesh in place on Thursday. The PlayStation had been indulged in incessantly and it was finally time to get back to the grind. Rest assured that a lot of them would have sat in front of their television watching Bangladesh overcome the hosts on Friday. That match also left the tournament locked, as all three teams sitting with the same number of points at the halfway stage.

Practice sessions during T20 tournaments, internationally or during the many leagues, are different to the otherwise routine ones you see for the other two formats. You’re most likely to find players involved in their own independent routines, working on specific skills rather than going through a fixed set of motions.

It looked like the seamers were keen on getting their radar calibrated to a certain length, slightly short and targeting the rib-cage of the batsman. It’s after all the length that they failed to be consistent with last week when they met Sri Lanka in the tournament opener, especially to the marauding Kusal Perera. With the Sri Lankan left-hander in the form he is, it’s likely that he will be the potential scourge on Monday when the two teams face off again in Colombo in what could well be the match that ensures a final berth for one team and leaves the other on the brink.

It’s perhaps a scenario that not many would have predicted going into the tournament, that India wouldn’t dominate proceedings from the start and leave it to the other two to fight it out. It might still end up being the case though. Must-win or in this case winning to avoid being in a must-win situation, are experiences that most in this Indian team have come across and overcome on numerous occasions during the IPL. It’s one of the biggest gains from the IPL for Indian cricket, the abundance of opportunities it provides young Indians to be under pressure and get the better of it. To come through unscathed and be successful.

So, India will still be favourites to come through the stalemate in the Nidahas Trophy and keep the pre-tournament status quo in tact. You just had to see their performance against Bangladesh to get a gist of how quickly they can bounce back from defeat. A loss was something they’d not experienced in a while. But led by Shikhar Dhawan they never let it show that their momentum had been halted. Perhaps because it hadn’t. The loss to Sri Lanka was only a blip, or that’s what it looked like.

The one thing that hasn’t gone to plan so far though has been Rohit Sharma’s form. So destructively consistent has he been in recent times against the white ball that you wouldn’t expect Rohit to not get back to his bowler-dominating for this long. There was one century in the ODIs against South Africa but his T20 form has strangely been indifferent. His last five scores in the shortest format which includes three in South Africa read 21, 0, 11, 0 and 17. Sending the Mumbai opener to Sri Lanka was thought of in some circles as an attempt to get him back amongst the runs. Rohit though has never been a happy traveller to Sri Lanka despite flying here eight times. Between 2008-2017, he has played 23 T20 games against Sri Lanka and scored 557 runs with an average of 27. In 2008, in five games he scored 72 runs only. In 2009 he scored 44 runs in three games and in 2010 he managed only 126 runs in five ODIs. The 2012 tour was the worst of the lot with him scoring only 13 runs in five ODIs.

The Indian captain broke the deadlock only last year when he scored two hundreds in five games taking his total tally to 302 runs but again in the T20s that followed he only managed 13 runs. In the IPL though it’s generally when the Mumbai Indians need it the most that their captain takes his batting up a notch. India will hope for him to do just that here. It will be interesting to see whether India continue to experiment with Rishabh Pant for his third straight game or go for the tried and tested Rahul.

Jaydev Unadkat and the rest of the pace attack got their act straight against the Bangladeshis and can be expected to repeat the dose against the Lankans. “Variations are most important for a bowler in this format. You talk about playing with the batsman’s mind and you can only do that with variations,” Unadkat said on Sunday.

“You can see how hard batsmen are going at us in the Powerplay. It is up to us how we come out of it and don’t allow them to hit. I back myself to do that,” said the left-arm pacer. A little extra bounce cis the latest addition to his set of variations, aptly so as India look to bounce back from a rare defeat to Sri Lanka and get back to their dominating ways.

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