The torrential downpour in Visakhapatnam on Saturday provided yet another twist in the tale of the most anticipated comeback in Indian sport. The damp squib ensured that Yuvraj Singh will have to wait till Tuesday in Chennai before proving to the world that ‘he really can’.
The washed out first T20 against New Zealand also means that skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni now has one less opportunity to tune up some of the finer aspects of his team’s campaign going into the upcoming World T20 in Sri Lanka. The most pertinent among them being calibrating his field placements to ensure optimum performance. Especially since Dhoni will be leading a squad, which despite bearing a significant resemblance to five years ago on paper, is now much older and arguably lacks the same vibrancy on the field.
Not to forget that the Indian captain has made no bones in the past about his apprehensions of going in with too many senior players in the shorter formats. He had even called them liabilities in terms of his team’s quest in keeping with the `every run you save on the field you gain’ formula for success in T20 cricket.
“This format of the game needs a lot of energy and the fielding is very important,” Dhoni has always maintained.
Five years ago, with Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly opting out, the man from Ranchi led a team bubbling with youth to South Africa. Many of those names still remain. But age has caught up with the likes of Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Gautam Gambhir too-all of whom now are on the wrong side of 30.
But back in 2007, T20 still remained an alien invention for the Indians. Since then, with the inception of the IPL among other factors, Dhoni & Co have turned into the most experienced campaigners in this format. The likes of Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma will be there of course bursting with energy as always.
In addition what Dhoni’s class of 2012 lack in terms of brazen freshness they make up for with immense know-how both individually as well as collectively. And that should certainly hold the team with the second oldest squad-on average-at World T20 IV in good stead.
Former India skipper and chief selector when India won the inaugural edition, Dilip Vengsarkar, for one clearly believes so. He insists that having a senior bunch of players need not necessarily be a drawback provided the personnel have the right skill-set for the shortest format of the game.
“Age is a factor in cricket, more so in Twenty20. When I was the chief selector in 2007, we focused on the fitness. Then again, fitness is something which can’t be defined by a particular theory. A 30-year-old can be much fitter than someone 10 years younger. Maybe the present selection committee has put more emphasis on the right combination rather than only the fitness aspect,” Vengsarkar told The Indian Express.
However, Vengsarkar seconds Dhoni’s view claiming that India may be lacking when it comes to fielding with some of the seniors not being the sprightliest. “Perhaps the selectors believe that individual skill of the players with bat and ball will make up for the shortcomings which we may see in the field,” Vengsarkar added.
The grounds in Sri Lanka may not be as vast as those in Australia where Dhoni initially made his worries public, but he will still have a number of holes to plug in the field. And he will hope that he’s worked out most of them by the time Team India depart from Chennai later this week.
By Shamik Chakrabarty, The Indian Express, September 9, 2012