India skipper Virat Kohli has been pretty vocal about his team's new batting approach, that is to be more fearless and aggressive, and that has been on display in the first two T20Is against England. There is a very thin line between being fearless and being reckless when it comes to sports. The Men in Blue were slightly reckless in the first encounter and were blown away by the top-ranked T20I side.
"Calculated, not reckless" - that is how Kohli described debutant Ishan Kishan's match-winning knock in the second T20I. Kishan and Kohli were fearless but not reckless in the second game as India turned the tables on England with a resounding series-levelling win on Sunday (March 14). The hosts managed to outclass Eoin Morgan and Co. in all three facets of the game and will now be high on confidence ahead of the third T20I in Ahmedabad on Tuesday (March 16).
India and England are two quality T20I sides. The latter are arguably the best unit in the white-ball formats, but India are not too far behind. India have played 18 T20I bilateral series consisting of three or more matches (including the ongoing series) and not once have they lost the first two games. They have won 15 of those and that tells you how strong India are in the shortest format of the game. However, they have often been out-muscled by the likes of West Indies and England in big events and that's exactly why there has been so much focus on playing a fearless brand of cricket.
ARRIVAL OF KISHAN AND SURYAKUMAR
The Mumbai Indians duo of Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav were handed debuts in the second T20I. While Suryakumar didn't get a chance to bat, Kishan whacked 56 off just 32 deliveries to lay a solid platform for India's comfortable and successful 165-run chase. The likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul prefer taking a bit of time at the start of the innings and that's where Kishan brings a fresh perspective. The left-hander mostly starts his innings on fifth gear and makes full use of the Powerplay, like he did on Sunday.
Kishan is versatile as he can bat anywhere in the batting order. Rohit is yet to play in the series and the competition for the second opening spot was mostly between Rahul and Dhawan, but after what Kishan pulled off in the second T20I, the Indian team management would be very tempted to have a batsman of his calibre batting in the first six overs. Meanwhile, Rahul has struggled to get going in this series and could make way for Rohit. Rahul has looked rusty, but India would be delighted with the way Kohli batted in the second match.
Having registered three ducks in his last five international innings, Kohli was under some pressure ahead of the second T20I. The batting maestro, however, was at his best on Sunday and showed everyone why he is a modern great. The right-hander crafted five fours and three sixes in his 49-ball 73* and finished the game for his team on a sluggish surface. If there's one Indian batsman who doesn't really have to change his approach, it's Kohli. With Kishan and Rishabh Pant batting around him, Kohli can play his natural game.
The home side went with just five bowling options in the second T20I as they also had Suryakumar and Shreyas Iyer in the top six. They managed to get four overs each out of Hardik Pandya and Washington Sundar, but that's not always going to be the case. There's no update on T Natarajan's availability yet, but Shardul Thakur and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have done a pretty good job so far. India conceded just 35 off the last five overs and Thakur and Bhuvneshwar played a key role in that. Deepak Chahar and Navdeep Saini are yet to get a game and India would want to try them out as well.
ENGLAND OUT OF COMFORT ZONE
"It was quite slow, low, and didn't really turn a great deal - (a pitch) that does expose our weakness. This surface took us out of our comfort zone and really was a typical Indian wicket that we would play on in an IPL game. The next game is on the red soil that looks like Ayers Rock so it's probably going to turn. Regardless of how we do in the series, we want to learn as much as we can and get that experience under our belt for the World Cup," said Morgan following a seven-wicket defeat.
In Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Morgan and Ben Stokes, England have a formidable batting unit but struggled to get going on a surface that was slow and kept a bit low. Like Morgan mentioned, these surfaces and conditions would serve as a perfect platform for England to prepare themselves for the upcoming T20 World Cup. Roy has been amongst runs, but England would want their batsmen to get those scores of 70s-80s.
The next game will be played on a red-soil surface rather than a black-soil one and the visiting side could bring in Moeen Ali in place of Tom Curran. And, if Mark Wood is fit and available, the tearaway paceman could return in place of Chris Jordan.
INDIA: KL Rahul/Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli (c), Rishabh Pant (wk), Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal.
ENGLAND: Jason Roy, Jos Buttler (wk), Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan (c), Ben Stokes, Sam Curran, Tom Curran/Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid.