India captain Rohit Sharma was asked the inevitable question on the eve of the first Twenty20 international against England in Southampton – what impact would the adverse result in the Birmingham Test on Tuesday have on Thursday’s match?
“I spoke to a few of those guys here, obviously they know the result but they did not watch the game. It is a bit disappointing not to come out on the winning side, but clearly it is a different format and a different set of players who are going to take the field for us,” Rohit said.
“And England is also a different side, a lot of the guys who won the Test match at Edgbaston are not here, so it is a different side for both teams. Time will tell whether that result has impacted our preparation in this format.”
The scheduling on this tour is so cramped that in the week since they beat Ireland 2-0 in a T20I series, India have conceded the eighth-highest run-chase in Test history over five days, and are instantly back to white-ball duties for a stretch of six more games across five cities in just 11 days. A different set of personnel will turn out in Southampton, of course, with some members of the Test side available from the second T20I, also at Edgbaston, on Saturday.
While their ‘Bazball’ style under coach Brendon McCullum and skipper Ben Stokes has been in the limelight with four consecutive successful Test chases, England are also starting a new era in white-ball cricket under captain Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott after Eoin Morgan’s retirement.
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“He asked people to play in a certain way and he would walk out, third ball, running down the wicket, trying to hit it over long-on for six,” Buttler had said about Morgan last week. “As a fellow player, you watch your captain do that and you think, ‘let’s tuck in behind him and follow that lead.’” Buttler has added that he’d also like to lead from the front.
In that sense, these three away T20Is against an opponent that has redefined white-ball cricket – much before it turned its attention to red-ball – will be a proper test of India’s 2022 T20 World Cup build-up. Since the 2021 edition in the UAE, they have played 15 T20Is, but 13 of them have come at home, and the remaining two have been against Ireland. “England is going to be a very challenging team for us,” Rohit said, also pointing out that some of their players had been involved in the ongoing T20 Blast and were thus attuned to the shortest format.
The conditions in Southampton could be challenging too, in a different way. In the T20 Blast, it hasn’t been a high-scoring venue, with an average score of 165 for the side batting first, and still chasing has proven to be difficult.
It will also be Rohit’s first outing since recovering from the covid infection that forced him to miss the Edgbaston Test. The skipper, who hasn’t played a game since May 21 in the Indian Premier League, said that he wasn’t sure how his body would react going forward, but for now, he was feeling alright.
“It has been 8-9 days since I had covid,” Rohit said. “I was struggling for a couple of days but I am happy that I am standing back on my feet nice and healthy. I resumed training three days ago, and decided to play this (Southampton) game.”