India's KL Rahul
India's KL Rahul unsuccessfully tries to catch the ball to dismiss England's Jos Buttler (not pictured) during the first Twenty20 international cricket match between India and England at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Motera on March 12, 2021. Image Credit: AFP

In the pre-match conference, India skipper Virat Kohli had announced that KL Rahul will be opening with Rohit Sharma but to everyone’s surprise, Dhawan came in for Rohit Sharma.

Kohli said during the toss that Sharma has been rested, which was baffling for many reasons. One being this was Sharma’s favourite format where he has won five titles for Mumbai Indians and one for Deccan Chargers in the IPL. Second, he was in form in the recently concluded test series, scoring the highest runs from India’s side. Third and most important, this series is a dress rehearsal for the T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to happen later in India between the top two sides, and he’s been scouted as a favourite for it.

It was quite pivotal that India continue to dominate over England, as in the test matches. However, with Sharma missing, India was depending on Rahul to give an aggressive and fast start to capitalise in the power play.

Kohli had also mentioned in the press conference that India would change their traditional approach of playing T20 and would focus instead on playing fearless cricket. In the absence of Sharma, this was an ideal opportunity for India to rope in the Pocket Dynamo Ishan Kishan to open the innings with Rahul for India to show the intent that Kohli was talking about.

By picking Dhawan, who is a slow starter, all the talk about fearless cricket went for a toss and India ended up playing careless cricket and were three down for nothing in the power play.

The T20 game has evolved a lot in the last few years and India’s traditional approach needed a change, which is what Kohli spoke about. But as the saying goes, "you need to walk the talk" and to that end India needed to pick the right players against the number one team and show that they meant business. The big hitters like Rishabh Pant came in as early as the 5th over and Pandya by 12th. That resulted in no firepower left in the tank to finish the innings with a flourish and India ended up with 124, which looks like a below par score.

India had picked the right bowlers for this game but T20 games are mainly won by batsmen giving their bowlers par score to defend.

By playing 54 dot balls in the allotted 120 balls, India’s plan of playing aggressive cricket went for a toss and so did the toss which Morgan won.