Indians eye winning start

Cricket First T20I : Kohli's men take on formidable England in first T20I at Green Park today

Indians eye winning start

 The Green Park retains an old-world charm. It still has cemented stands, iron railings with sour-metallic smell, manual scoreboard and open air press box. Little has changed in its long tenure of hosting international cricket.

The irony is tough to escape as the venue prepares to host a segment of modern day cricket – T20 – for the second time on Thursday, the opener of the three-match series that would finally wind up England’s long tour of India. Technically, Green Park had made its T20 debut in the last edition of the Indian Premier League.

Cricket this winter has proved favourable for India thus far. They have pocketed the Tests and the ODI series with elan and are eager to lid the bilateral contest on a high. Yet, T20 is a format where they are still in search of a settled combination.

Young faces are clamouring for a spot alongside the resurgent old warriors. Left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra, at 36, was a revelation during the World T20 but hasn’t played since the IPL last year. He subsequently underwent a knee operation and tested himself at the nets on Thursday.

Yuvraj Singh scripted a memorable comeback to the ODI mix with fluent knocks, including a career-best 150, during the series. The squad also has Suresh Raina, who had last appeared in a T20 international against the West Indies in March 2016.

Raina was also the part of the ODI squad against New Zealand in October last, but had to skip it due to illness. In his absence, Kedar Jadhav grabbed the opportunity, and tied the Black Caps in knots with his off-spin. He raised the bar to a new level against England, this time with the bat, to earn a much-deserved man of the series award. With Jadhav not in the T20 squad, Raina has his task cut out, if he gets a look in.

Then there are unheralded Mandeep Singh and Rishabh Pant, who has impressed with his prowess to hit the ball hard. The left-handed wicketkeeper-batsman, considered a bright prospect following his stint in the under-19 World Cup and a stupendous Ranji Trophy season, made a telling statement during the second warm-up game against England with a 36-ball 59. In the present set-up, he could be considered to open the innings with other slots more or less occupied.

In the absence of their best spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, skipper Virat Kohli will have to pick from the next line of spinners, Parvez Rasool and Yuzvendra Chahal. It shouldn’t be tough for Kohli, with both the spinners playing under him for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Among the seamers, apart from Nehra, he has Jasprit Bumrah, all-ounder Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar at his command.

After conjuring a win in the dead ODI rubber at Kolkata, England must be eager to press on. Their batting is embellished with stroke makers like Jason Roy, Sam Billings, Jonny Bairstow and captain Eoin Morgan to name a few. Among the bowlers, there is excitement about their T20 specialist and left-arm tearaway Tymal Mills, who is known to bowl at 90mph. Besides, Ben Stokes, Chris Jordan and Jake Ball are capable of making the ball talk.

While England may have invented the T20 format in 2003 as part of its domestic competition, it was made popular by India thanks to the cash-rich IPL. Another irony, to speak of. Regardless, it promises to be a cracker of series, with the passionate Indian crowd, confident Kohli and his boys, and England seeking redemption.

Due to a combination of a faulty light tower, dew and fog, the match here will witness a 4:30 pm start.

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