The coronavirus crisis has put a halt to cricketing action around the world. There have been significant discussions on when the sport could return – and what changes will it see once it resumes in the post-COVID-19 world.
In India, the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League stands postponed indefinitely. It is unknown if the tournament will take place this year -- same also goes for the T20 World Cup, which is slated to take place in October-November.
Before the premier global tournament, India are scheduled to participate in a number of bilateral tournaments, as well as the Asia Cup T20. While the side’s home ODI series against South Africa was cancelled owing to the outbreak of coronavirus, India are also scheduled to tour Sri Lanka (3 ODIs, 3 T20Is) in August and host England (3 ODIs, 3 T20Is in September). The Asia Cup is also scheduled to take place in September.
The future of all the above-mentioned series/ tournaments remains in doubt amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, a BCCI official, in an interview to Sportstar last week, hinted at the possibility of Team India playing two matches on the same day to compensate for the time lost.
“None of us know when sport, especially international cricket will resume. But if we have to safeguard all our stakeholders - from sponsors to spectators - one of the options is to select two different squads and play a Test series and a T20I series simultaneously," the official said.
So what if India does play two different international sides on the same day? Let’s create a hypothetical situation.
Two matches in one day:
The BCCI official specifically hinted that India can play a Test and a T20I series simultaneously. While India are not scheduled to play a Test until November, the side has two T20I series scheduled before the T20 World Cup – against Sri Lanka and England.
There are no tentative dates on when the IPL can be rescheduled and it is unlikely that India – as well as the rest of the countries -- would be returning to international action anytime soon.
In India’s case, their two opponents for the T20I series – England and Sri Lanka are also devoid of international action for over two months. While the county cricket in England has been suspended until July 1, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has already postponed all cricketing action indefinitely since March.
An update from ECB on the recreational game. pic.twitter.com/ZYtrcj7CmR— England and Wales Cricket Board (@ECB_cricket) May 10, 2020
So, let’s imagine this scenario – if India’s Test tour to Australia goes ahead in November later this year, it is likely that the international action may slowly begin to resume around the same time. We won’t delve into the fate of T20 World Cup in Australia – however, let’s not forget that India will also host the T20 World Cup next year. So, irrespective of the tournament taking place in Australia, the shortest format will likely be a priority when teams return to action.
Let’s create this scenario, then: India’s Test tour of Australia and England’s T20I tour of India taking place simultaneously. Sounds fun?
How will the teams line up?
(Note: We’re only considering both the teams on the basis of the players who were already a part of the squads. Additionally, we have also considered a return of players who were a part of the squad before they were injured.)
The selection of teams for both the formats – simultaneously, is going to be a dilemma for the Indian team management. India boasts of quite a few players who are an important part of the squads across all the formats of the game. More importantly, India don’t have a split-captain policy – like England and Sri Lanka. Virat Kohli remains the skipper of the side across all the three formats, which adds to the difficulty.
Few decisions will be a no-brainer, though. Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma are India’s Test specialists and will go straight into the lineup for a Test match in Australia.
In the same way, players who are not a part of the Test setup – KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan (assuming he’s drafted into the side once fit), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Shardul Thakur and Yuzvendra Chahal will make it into the T20I XI.
The questions arise on selecting the all-format players for the two series.
Indian captain Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Rishabh Pant and Mohammed Shami are some of the all-format players in the side. Other players like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya have also been a part of India’s squads across the formats in the past.
However, the series against Australia will hold additional relevance as it would be a part of the World Test Championship. Moreover, Australia are currently second in the table – only 64 points behind India. Virat Kohli’s men faced a 2-0 series whitewash at the hands of New Zealand and would want to return to winning ways in the longest format. Additionally, earlier this month, Australia replaced India as the number-one ranked side in Tests. India have dropped to third, losing their top spot for the first time since 2016.
All of these factors lead us to believe that the World Test Championship would be of significant priority for the Indian team management.
And so, here’s what we think – Indian captain Virat Kohli, wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant and the fast-bowling core of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami should be a part of the Test team in Australia.
Rishabh Pant’s inclusion may raise some eyebrows – considering Wriddhiman Saha’s performances in India and Pant’s own flair in shorter formats of the game. However, Pant’s ability with the bat in overseas conditions give him an edge. Also, turning tracks are less likely in Australia, which makes Pant a better choice behind the wickets than Saha.
Rohit Sharma, who is the vice-captain in the limited-overs format, would then be leading the Indian T20I team against England, while Ravindra Jadeja will also follow him in the series. Jadeja is a utility player for India in the short formats – his knack of breaking gritty partnerships, scoring quick runs down the order and impacting the games with stunning reflexes on the field make him a suitable choice for a T20I side.
Rohit Sharma now has the most 50+ scores in T20Is!— ICC (@ICC) February 2, 2020
What. A. Player 👏 pic.twitter.com/sndcg8jeBq
We also believe that it would be highly unlikely for the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya to be drafted straight into the Test side. Both the players have missed a large part of India’s cricket action since the 2019 World Cup and hence, it would be more prudent for the team management to allow them a comeback through the shortest format.
Finally, here are our teams for both the matches:
India’s Test Team against Australia:
India’s T20I team against England:
Rohit Sharma (c), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul (wk), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini, Yuzvendra Chahal