Rohit & Co. will not take Ireland lightly in alien conditions

Hawk-eye: Kohli will have to watch the ball closely given the way the pitches have behaved in the USA.
| Photo Credit: DEEPAK KR

The Indian team would have keenly watched the Sri Lanka-South Africa encounter at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium on Monday. The batting group, led by skipper Rohit Sharma, would not have liked what they saw.

The drop-in pitch at the new venue was not conducive to big shots and big scores — ingredients usually taken for granted in T20 cricket. The bounce was uneven, the outfield slow. SL was not up for it, crumbling for 77. SA huffed and puffed to make it home in 16.2 overs.

India will face a similar test when it takes on Ireland in its Group-A ICC Men’s T20 World Cup opener here on Wednesday. There are minefields to navigate, not just for this encounter but for two more to come at New York.

This is the time for the experienced core — Rohit, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav and Rishabh Pant — to stand tall. There is enough quality in the ranks to assess the conditions and make the necessary adjustments on the fly.

Kohli, likely to open the innings with Rohit, is best suited to emerge as the hero. His insistence on getting the eye in before breaking the shackles — a quality that has sometimes been criticised as outdated T20 batsmanship — could save the day here.

The spinners hold all the aces with ball in hand. Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, and Ravindra Jadeja are the likely choices for this role, which leaves no room for Yuzvendra Chahal.

Conditions do not matter to Jasprit Bumrah. The fast bowler, who was virtually unplayable even in the India net sessions, is a true match-winner. Left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh — an asset with his tight death over spells — is the best fit to partner Bumrah.

India will hope that Hardik Pandya forces his way out of a slump. As the standout all-rounder, Hardik is invaluable, but his poor run with Mumbai Indians in IPL 2024 raises doubts.

Ireland may be ranked a low eleventh in T20Is, but the side has the quality to stun the favourite. This was evident last month, when a 55-ball 77 from opener Andy Balbirnie took Ireland to a first-ever win over Pakistan in T20Is.

Left-arm speedster Josh Little, who featured in one game for Gujarat Titans in IPL 17, can crank it up. Captain Paul Stirling is vastly experienced, having earned 142 T20I caps. Stirling would like to recreate the magic of the second T20I against India a couple of years ago, where he pummelled an 18-ball 40 to nearly power his side to the 226-run target.

India will not take Ireland lightly, but on this occasion, it is the alien conditions which poses the real challenge.

The squads: India: Rohit Sharma (Capt.), Hardik Pandya, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Sanju Samson (wk), Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohammed Siraj.

Ireland: Paul Stirling (Capt.), Mark Adair, Ross Adair, Andrew Balbirnie, Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Graham Hume, Josh Little, Barry McCarthy, Neil Rock, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Ben White, Craig Young.

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