The horrors of a disastrous Thursday at the Adelaide Oval will indeed blight the otherwise wonderful memories of the venue. Alongside some great accomplishments in the past, the Indian team will now also remember the Oval for teaching them something unique about cricket’s shortest format on a very forgettable evening.
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T20 is unlike any other cricket played across any other format traditionally, and therefore, it cannot be seen from any of those lenses at any given point. The format, to a large extent already, and to all possible extent in the future, will have to be seen as a completely different byproduct of the game in order to comprehend it and excel.
There will be a lot for the Indian team to consider when they sit down to do a post-mortem of the Thursday game and a lot of points are already obvious – a) travelling with an opening pair that wasn’t in the right form, b) not being consistent with their options for a wicket-keeper-batsman, c) not allowing the best spinner in the traveling contingent an opportunity, d) not looking beyond a set of ‘medium-pacers’ and making some braver choices.
There are probably more things to point out and that will happen too. But once all of this settles down, what Team India and its benefactors must take into account is also that they’ve been getting a few things completely wrong about this format for quite some time now. Unlike Test cricket, where there’s another session to recover if the first one goes wrong; unlike 50-over cricket that allows far more breathing space; T20 doesn’t really allow much of a chance to come back into the game if the initiative is lost.
It is the only internationally accepted format right now where ‘reactive measures’ do not apply. To be in charge, a team has got to be ‘pro-active’ and set the narrative with each ball instead of following one.
And that is only possible when a) form is given preference over reputation at all times, b) a strict ‘horses-for-courses’ policy is applied and selection processes remain thoroughly number-driven, c) the fear of a possible loss doesn’t come in the way of making a brave selection, d) serious data-crunchers are brought in to manage / select teams instead of leaving the bunch in the hands of retired players who’ve never dealt with the format.
The dearth lies in clarity of thought. The kind of clarity that was visible in 2007 under the chairmanship of former India Test great Dilip Vengsarkar when the call was taken that all senior cricketers of the time would take a backseat and allow a very young squad – with a decent mix of experience – to travel to South Africa.
Back then, the ‘senior players’ too participated in this decision.
Fifteen years have passed since and all that Indian cricket needs to do today is to revisit 2007 and start again.