What Next for India? Appoint Pandya the T20 Captain, Name a Separate T20 Coach
For nine years India has not won an ICC men’s title in any of the three formats.
The Quint DAILY
For impactful stories you just can’t miss
When Virat Kohli quit as T20 captain before last year’s World Cup, he gave a clear plan on the way forward in the format.
Kohli suggested he would like to continue as India’s ODI captain, with a young vice-captain, with a view to capture the 2023 World Cup in the format. For the T20 format, Kohli suggested that Rohit Sharma should lead with an equally young vice-captain.
In short, Kohli had suggested separating the two white-ball formats and having two separate directions to achieve glory in them. But the powers that be completely dismissed the idea and instead were livid that Kohli could even think about separating the two white ball formats.
A year later, when India had been knocked out of yet another T20 World Cup before the title bout, the question once again arises: why was Kohli’s suggestion dismissed out of sight?
The biggest fallacy in Indian cricket has been to look at the T20 and the ODI formats as one large umbrella family, when in fact the two are as different as it can be. The two formats do not converge at any point except in the coloured clothing worn by the players and the white ball used for play.
The two formats now require entirely different skill sets, in fact some players may play only T20 cricket, but may find it difficult to get picked in the ODI format.
India certainly started going that route as they picked Dinesh Karthik, after this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL), and Harshal Patel as specialist T20I players. But there needed to have been more investment in picking a specialist T20I side without losing out on the qualities of all-format players that India is lucky to have.
India’s dreams came crashing down on Thursday at the Adelaide Oval in the semi-final thanks to a devil may care approach from English openers Jos Buttler and Alex Hales.
Now if you look at the English T20I squad, they have gone about it the right way. They pick XIs where they end up having 11 batters and seven-eight bowlers. Now what this does is provide captain Buttler with a lot of options on the field. Later, when they bat, they can bat with a clear-cut aggressive approach because of the depth in the batting.
An Indian XI is a unique one in the T20I format where the batters don’t bowl, the bowlers don’t offer anything with the bat (except Ravichandran Ashwin maybe). Hardik Pandya is the only exception to the rule. Hence, they end up trying to be cautious with their approach, though in the lead-up to this T20 World Cup there was a lot of talk about change in template.
That aggression was missing throughout this T20 World Cup especially in the powerplay and as a result India was always playing catch-up. There seems to be no attempt to change the outlook of the side. Those multi-skilled players who provide flexibility to sides in white ball tournaments are missing in this line-up.
Now this should have been the easiest task for the selectors and the team management. India hosts the biggest T20 franchise league in the world, yet cannot seem to field a specialist side with the best performers from the Indian Premier League (IPL). This reluctance to put down your own league performers by saying that the bowling was not upto the mark or that it does not matter is simply unbelievable.
This lack of balance in the T20I side led to India not picking Yuzvendra Chahal in the XI throughout the tournament. There has to be something wrong that Chahal was not selected for last year’s World Cup and this year was not picked in the XI. The reason is simple: if you picked Chahal the batting gets weakened and to cover up the gap the team went with Axar Patel.
So, the problem boils down to the same issue, the approach, the mindset of everyone in Indian cricket. Unfortunately, unlike professional cricket set-ups in England, Australia, New Zealand etc, in India despite so many disappointments in ICC tournaments no heads will roll since all are honorary administrators. The buck will therefore have to stop with the selectors and the team management.
Now the time is ripe to correct the wrong and openly spell out the plans for the 2024 T20 World Cup. They have named Hardik Pandya as the captain of the T20I squad travelling to New Zealand next week, but have left the door open for the return of the veterans. The squad for the New Zealand series once again shows lack of thinking. They have picked three wicket-keepers with Rishabh Pant being nominated as the vice-captain. There are very few multi-skilled players in the squad and this lacuna has not been addressed yet again.
There is only one thing certain, Karthik will no longer play international cricket as he was not even picked for the semi-final, despite having been carried all through. There needs to be a clear-cut vision from the selectors or the team management, since that won’t ever come from the BCCI.
For nine years India has not won an ICC men’s title in all three formats. In any other set-up there would have been an honest addressal of the problems they face. Here the problems get swept under the carpet.
England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have conducted regular open reviews of their side’s defeats in the Ashes and held one earlier this year when they were blanked out by Australia. In fact England’s white ball revival happened right after their 2015 ODI World Cup quarter-final defeat at the hands of Bangladesh, at the same Adelaide Oval where India lost on Thursday. They admitted that England needed to reboot their white ball and gave a free hand to Eoin Morgan.
In India there is never an open admission, because if you admit there is a problem then you must find solutions. India chose to ignore the 0-8 Test defeats in England and Australia post the 2011 World Cup, so this nine year long wait is hardly a surprise.
The selectors are on tenterhooks because they do not know what their future is, the coaching staff is secure in the knowledge that their contracts are till the 2023 ODI World Cup, whereas the senior players know they are secure because of their stature. Those not sure about their places are the ones who will find the going tough.
There should now ideally be a clear vision drawn out to win the 2024 T20 World Cup. Pandya should be the nominated T20I captain and should be allowed to build the best possible squad. Even if there are players who feature in just the T20 format, Pandya should be given a free hand. Prepare a side with a lot of depth, provide options to the skipper. But for Pandya to develop that squad he would need some support. The coaching staff know that extension of their contracts for that T20 World Cup in 2024 will depend on whether India wins next year’s event. The selectors don’t know if they will be around to pick the squad for the series in January 2023.
Ideally India should appoint a separate coach for the T20 side and let that coach build the side parallelly. That new T20 coach should be given the mandate to build the side with Pandya. So that by the time the 2024 T20 World Cup comes around, India would have a crack squad to stake claim for the title.
Unfortunately, none of these radical changes would ever be attempted because it would mean admitting that there is a problem. Hence, we will continue with the ostrich-like approach and whip up jingoism next time India plays a multi-nation event.
Then there will be an odd outstanding individual performance and normal service will resume.
With there being no long-term vision in anything around Indian cricket, we will continue to underperform in major events and lament exits forever.
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)
Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from sports and cricket
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.