Friday, June 21, 2024

T20 World Cup 2024: India open against gutsy Ireland in renewed quest for glory

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India’s skipper Rohit Sharma during a practice session ahead of the ICC T20 World Cup opener against Ireland, in New York on Tuesday.
| Photo Credit: ANI

Sceptics call them ‘old wine in new bottle’ but a clutch of superstar Indian cricketers would leave no stone unturned to break away from their archaic template when they take on a plucky Ireland in their opening game of the T20 World Cup here on Wednesday.

The team knows that it is a touch undercooked with a lot of confusion still persisting about what could be the best combination on a drop-in virgin strip. As is clear from the games so far, scoring won’t be a walk in the park like it was during the Indian Premier League the last couple of months.

But the bigger concern is the baggage of being favourites who don’t really make it count in the end. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have individually laid their hands on global silverware but an assortment of some other ‘once in generation’ cricketers, including Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja, have not and they would be eager to finally lift one.

This Indian cricket team wouldn’t want to be the Brazil football team of 1982 and 86 when global stars like Socrates, Zico, Careca, Falcao and Alemao couldn’t win the FIFA trophy.

The most poignant sight of last year’s ODI World Cup was a forlorn Rohit, after the final, desperately trying to hide his welled-up eyes from the TV cameras as he quietly climbed the steps of the Narendra Modi Stadium dressing room.

There was also Kohli, who after scoring those 765 invaluable runs, could only get a fleeting blank gaze towards the podium where the trophy was kept. The best players sometimes don’t add up to become the best team and while India have put faith in their most experienced lot, it can’t be simply wished away that this current batch has faltered at the final two hurdles way too many times.

At 37, this could safely be termed as Rohit’s last World Cup in the white-ball format as one doesn’t have to be Nostradamus to predict that he won’t be around for the next T20 World Cup in India and the 50-over World Cup in South Africa in 2027.

A very gutsy Irish team with some quality T20 players like Paul Stirling, Josh Little, Harry Tector, and Andy Balbirnie, awaits India in the lung-opener. On a slow track and a sub-standard outfield at the Nassau County ground, how India plays against Irish left-arm spinner George Dockrell will be interesting.

Where India hold the advantage is their spinners who are way better compared to what the Irish team have though the pace attack, aside from Bumrah, looks a bit weak in absence of the Mohammed Shami.

Virat Kohli during a practice session ahead of India’s ICC T20 World Cup opener against Ireland, in New York on Tuesday.

Virat Kohli during a practice session ahead of India’s ICC T20 World Cup opener against Ireland, in New York on Tuesday.
| Photo Credit:

Often having too many options isn’t the best option just like Indians have at the top. To fit in skipper Rohit and team’s most elite batter in Kohli, they have to probably sacrifice Yashasvi Jaiswal.

Rishabh Pant’s batting at No.3 in the practice game was like a breath of fresh air and Hardik Pandya’s bowling form will indicate how India fares in this competition.

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At the Cantiague Park nets on Monday, Pandya spent considerable time bowling to Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav and Rohit. If he can bowl at least three overs every day, the Indian team can also look to play Shivam Dube and include an extra spinner in the line-up.

Like earlier days, Ireland isn’t exactly a minnow in this format and very recently, they have beaten Pakistan in their own den in the run-up to the World Cup.

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Little has more than little experience of playing IPL for Gujarat Titans and the troika of Balbirnie, Stirling and Tector can more than chance their arms.

Teams: India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh, Mohammed Siraj, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sanju Samson, and Yuzvendra Chahal.

Ireland: Paul Stirling (captain), Mark Adair, Ross Adair, Andy Balbirnie, Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Graham Hume, Josh Little*, Barry McCarthy, Neil Rock (wk), Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker (wk), Ben White, and Craig Young. Match starts at 8 pm.

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