Could it actually happen? Will we actually see countries field two (or) three different sides simultaneously to make up for the lost time? Only time will tell but today, we, here at SportsCafe, have decided to explore a hypothetical scenario that could very well come to fruition in six months' time.
It’s funny how life can change in a matter of days. It was not so long ago that every single one of us was worried about cricket going into overkill mode, running the athletes into the ground and feeding its viewers with excessive content, to the extent that many even became tired of the sport, and now, after being locked up inside the confines of our homes for two months, we’re pondering over the possibility of countries fielding two - or perhaps three - sides at the same time to make up for months of action that has been reduced to Ashes by the Covid-19 outbreak.
The idea was first pitched by Ashley Giles, Managing Director of the ECB, then supported by their skipper Eoin Morgan and earlier yesterday, a BCCI official suggested that India, too, might very well consider the possibility of fielding two different teams at the same time, primarily for two reasons - to be done with all pending fixtures and to ensure that sufficient revenue is generated by successfully executing the former. Now, arranging simultaneous bilateral series - across formats - is no mean feat. It is easier said than done, for the complications involved are enormous, but what if the boards cross all the barriers and make it happen?
Putting all the tangibles and intangibles aside, we, here at SportsCafe, have decided to explore the hypothetical scenario of the Indian Cricket Team fielding three different sides - simultaneously. What would the teams look like and who are the players that will be fit in?
Note:The formats are prioritized in the following order: Tests, ODIs and T20Is. What this basically means is that any player who is well-equipped to excel in all formats will be preferred first for the Test team. The value the player adds to the side (based on the format) will also be taken into account for the same.
The Test side
Team Overview: We don’t have much to talk about this side, do we? Due to the fact that our parameters have Tests as the most important - and valuable - format, both Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah will be playing in whites, although they could have walked into any of the other two limited-over sides which, in fact, can very well be labelled as their forte. However, from the POV of the country, both Kohli and Bumrah are way more valuable to the Test side than they are to the limited-over sides and thus, they find themselves donning the whites. Kohli and Bumrah aside, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammad Shami are the other two players who find themselves in this side although they could have easily featured in the ODI side, purely due to them being significantly better and more valuable to the team in red-ball cricket as compared to limited-overs. This, incidentally, was the exact same XI that team India fielded against New Zealand in the last Test they played in Christchurch earlier this year, so it’s fair to say that even in the unlikely scenario of the BCCI being forced to field different XIs for different formats, team India’s strength in Test cricket will remain unperturbed.
Overall rating: A+
The ODI side
Team Overview: At first glance, it would be impossible to think of this as a side that is somewhat ‘limited’. I mean, the Top four comprising Rohit, Dhawan, Rahul and Iyer - at least on paper - looks one of the best in the world and the composure of Pandey, coupled with the aggression of Pandya and the street-smartness of Jadhav almost makes it a dream batting line-up. On top of that, the reunion of the Kulcha Combo means the side has plenty of wicket-taking options in the middle overs - something that they’ve lacked post the World Cup - and the duo of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Navdeep Saini - thanks to their versatility and contrast - look like they would compliment each other really well, should they bowl in tandem. With Rohit Sharma’s captaincy being the icing on the cake, could we call this the best ODI side India have never had?
Overall rating: A+
The T20I side
Team Overview: If there’s one format that India might potentially suffer in the unlikely scenario of them having to field multiple sides simultaneously, it looks evident that it’s going to be T20s. Despite having ‘experimented’ a lot in T20 cricket in the past, team India have always had the luxury of having the likes of Rohit, Rahul and Pandey in the side but that, unfortunately, won’t be the case here. This essentially means that they’re crippled up top, with all their first five choices taken away from them, meaning they have no option but to field Sanju Samson at the top of the order, alongside Devdutt Padikkal. Prior experience with the national side means that Vijay Shankar slots in at No.3 - his bowling is also an added bonus - and succeeding him are two T20 specialists who are best suited for the game’s shortest format - Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant. Shivam Dube and ‘finisher’ Suryakumar Yadav complete the Top 7, but it’s the spinners who invoke curiosity. Lack of experience and leadership in the side means that Ravi Ashwin finds a place in the side, while Rahul Chahar also slots into the team due to his wicket-taking ability. Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur, both of who have now played enough international cricket to burden responsibility, complete the XI. Overall, it’s a decent side, albeit a heavily imbalanced one, but the fragility up top and the overall experience are two factors that are major causes of concern. This looks like one of the teams too weak to be an Indian side, but at the same time, too strong to be an India ‘A’ side.
Overall rating: B
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