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Indian players before the practice match against Western Australia at WACA on Thursday. Image Credit: Courtesy: Twitter@BCCI

Dubai: India’s current batting line-up is their best ever in cricket’s shortest format but the team must improve their fielding in Australia if they are to bring home a second T20 World Cup trophy, former coach Ravi Shastri has said.

India won the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2007 but failed to make the knockout rounds last year when Shastri, a former all-rounder, was in charge of the team.

Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli make up the top three of India’s batting line-up with Suryakumar Yadav, ranked second in the world in the T20 format, Hardik Pandya and either Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik completing the middle order.

Peaking in this format

“I’ve been part of the system for the last seven years as coach and now watching it from outside, this is the strongest batting line-up India has had, if you look at youth, experience, at players peaking in this format of the game,” Shastri said at the Mumbai Press Club on Wednesday.

“What India lacked in the last five-six years is the No 4, five, six. Now Surya coming at four, Hardik at five, Pant or Karthik at six, it makes a massive difference. It allows the top order to play in the manner they are playing.

“Even if you are two down in the powerplay, you still have the ammunition at the back to consistently take on the bowlers, which wasn’t the case for some time.”

Ravi Shastri
Ravi Shastri Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

While Shastri was confident in their batting firepower he said India could not afford sloppiness in the field. “One area India will have to pick up and start right from the beginning is fielding,” said Shastri, who coached India from mid-2017 until last year’s T20 World Cup in the UAE.

“Those 15-20 runs you save will make all the difference because otherwise every time you go out to bat, you will have to get those extra runs.

“This is where other sides, Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa, they field like crazy. Sri Lanka won the Asia Cup on their fielding.”

Century stand broken

Meanwhile, opener Rahul made 74 off 55 balls, but his efforts went in vain as India lost their second practice match to Western Australia XI by 36 runs at WACA Stadium on Thursday.

After Western Australia XI made 168/6 in their 20 overs, India could get only 132/8 in 20 overs, with Rahul’s 74 comprising nine fours and two sixes. The next best score in India’s innings, in which Rohit Sharma (though he was the captain), Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav did not bat, was 17 by Hardik Pandya and 10 by Dinesh Karthik.

Electing to bowl first, Josh Phillippe was taken out early by Arshdeep Singh on a pitch that had some bounce. D’Arcy Short (52 off 38 balls) and Nick Hobson (64 off 41 balls) shared a partnership of exactly 100 runs, where the duo took the spinners to the cleaners.

The century stand was broken when Short was run-out and Hobson soon followed after holing out in the deep. Ace off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin then struck in consecutive balls to remove Ashton Turner and Sam Fanning apart from taking out Cameron Bancroft in the same over.

Eventually, Western Australia XI finished on 168/6, with Ashwin grabbing figures of 3-32. From the pacers’ perspective, Harshal Patel took 2-27, in a welcome change after being on the expensive side in the recent times while Arshdeep ended with 1-37; in his three overs.

Pant fails again

In the chase, Rishabh Pant failed to get going yet again, being constantly beaten by left-arm pacer Jason Behrendorff. Eventually, Pant holed out for nine off Behrendorff. India suffered another blow when pacer Lance Morris dismissed Hooda, leaving the visitors at 39/2 in eight overs.

Pandya looked good before holing out off left-arm spinner Hamish McKenzie. At that stage, India slumped to 58/3 in the 10th over with Rahul at 21 off 28 balls and trying to hold fort from one end. Morris, with his fast pace, was troubling India with Axar Patel falling to him for just two runs.

McKenzie had another scalp to his name by dismissing Dinesh Karthik and despite Rahul getting his fifty in 43 deliveries as well as taking 20 runs off Behrendorff in the back-end of the innings, India fell well short of the target. Morris was impressive for Western Australia XI with 2-23 in his four overs.

India to travel to Brisbane

India will now move to Brisbane where they will play two warm-up matches against defending champions Australia on October 17 and last year’s runners-up New Zealand on October 19.

India, the inaugural Men’s T20 World Cup winners in 2007, are in Group 2 of the Super 12 stage at T20 World Cup, alongside Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa and two qualifying sides from the first round of the tournament.

They will open their T20 World Cup campaign against Pakistan on October 23 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), followed by matches on October 27 (against the first qualifier side at SCG), October 30 (against South Africa at Perth Stadium), November 2 (against Bangladesh at Adelaide Oval) and November 6 (against second qualifier side at MCG).

Brief scores:

Western Australia XI 168/6 in 20 overs (Nick Hobson 64, D’Arcy Short 52; Ravichandran Ashwin 3/32, Harshal Patel 2/27) beat India 132/8 in 20 overs (K.L Rahul 74; Lance Morris 2/23, Matt Kelly 2/26) by 36 runs.