BENGALURU: Winning is a habit and India’s limited-overs side under Virat Kohli seems to have got used to that culture in the last 24 months. Be it home or away, their performance has been top class. As a result, they are ranked first in Tests and second in ODI and T20Is. Not without reason are they strong favourites for the World Cup.
After finishing the 2017 Champions Trophy as runners-up, India have won 10 of their 11 ODI series. In 11 T20 series since, they won eight, drew two and lost one. That lone blip came in New Zealand. Immediately after that tour, they lost to Australia in the T20I opener in Vizag, which makes Wednesday’s match at the Chinnaswamy Stadium a must-win one.
It was in 2011 that India last lost back-to-back bilateral T20 series, when England emerged victorious twice, although those were one-off matches. That record will go should they lose on Wednesday. Kohli and his boys might not be thinking about it, but another loss could have a negative impact on team morale, considering that this is not something they have experienced often in the last couple of years. Besides, it could also break the momentum, the last thing they would want with it preceding a five-match ODI series, which will be India’s final preparation for the quadrennial event.
Irrespective of the format, a win is a win. Heading into the 50-over contest, starting on Saturday in Hyderabad, India will need a win in Bengaluru to be at their confident best. All-rounder Krunal Pandya is aware of the need to level the series before the ODIs. A good five-match series against Australia will further boost their morale.
“It’s a very important game as we are 1-0 down in the series. We will definitely go out there to level the series. It’s important to win every game. Talking about momentum, I guess we have been doing really well. We have not been losing consecutive matches, just the odd game or two. If I talk about momentum, it is surely with the Indian team. I’m pretty sure tomorrow and as well as in the ODI series we’ll do well,” said Pandya.
India cannot use this Bengaluru game solely to experiment. They need to pick their best XI, which should be able to stop Australia from winning their maiden T20 series in India. Shikhar Dhawan, who was rested for the first game, is expected to be back opening the batting. There is a chance that KL Rahul will be his partner, with Rohit Sharma getting a break. Vijay Shankar might get a look-in, in place of either Mayank Markande or Umesh Yadav, as the all-rounder adds strength to the batting.
This game also represents an opportunity for the likes of Pandya and Rahul to make a strong case for World Cup selection. However, Pandya underplayed such talks, saying: “I’m not thinking that far. I like to stay in the present.”