For 90s junkies like me who grew up on cricket and movies (I’ll leave that for another day), cricket was all about two formats – ODIs and Tests. There was never a talk about separate teams for white-ball cricket and red-ball cricket because even ODIs were played with the red ball until the late 1990s and early 2000s. On the contrary, the best players of the 90s succeeded in both formats equally, such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Aravinda de Silva, Saeed Anwar and Jacques Kallis, to name a few.
The onset of T20 cricket in the mid-2000s came with its sceptics, predominantly the so-called purists, who felt that T20s do not require as much ‘skill’ and lacks the required balance between bat and ball. Thanks to the IPL and the mushrooming of T20 leagues such as the Big Bash, PSL, CPL and others, the shortest format found its own identity and brought a newer audience to cricket – working professionals and women connoisseurs, who can now watch three hours of cricket post work and over the weekends, without having to dedicate a full day.
T20 is no longer a shorter version of ODI cricket, but one that demands a different skill and temperament. Cricketers like Suryakumar Yadav, Harshal Patel and Liam Livingstone have unapologetically established themselves as T20 specialists and se tup a new template to succeed. India paved the way in 2007 by winning the first T20 World Cup with a young captain expertly marshalling his resources (a mix of experienced and young cricketers), but somewhere the mojo got lost to reputations and indecisiveness. The 2021 T20 World Cup was a wake-up call for India, in particular, as they were playing ‘safe’ cricket which works in bilateral series but not multi-nation tournaments.
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In 2022, another World Cup year, I refer to it as Indian cricket 2.0 where there is acceptance and decisiveness around having T20 specialists with newer ideas (go hard right from ball one) and specialised skills (Harshal and Dinesh Karthik, for example). The packed schedule has helped in the evolution of this version, for the BCCI is now forced to field two (if not three) separate Indian cricket teams at the same time, with a separate coaching staff (thanks to the NCA) chiming in too.
While the T20 and ODI series against Sri Lanka in July 2021 seemed a one-off, the fact is that it was not. In June 2022, we had two separate teams representing India in England and Ireland; a specialist ODI team is playing in the West Indies right now; and another ODI series has been planned against Zimbabwe in August which overlaps with the Asia Cup (if we take travel and breaks into consideration) and now we hear that South Africa will play three ODIs in October just when the Indian World Cup team is expected to leave for Australia. This is a win-win situation for the BCCI (as it is able to honour its FTP commitments) and for the all-format players in Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah, who get regular breaks to rejuvenate mentally and physically, without having to feel guilty.
As a cricket fan and and a ‘self proclaimed selector’, these are my suggestions for two separate T20 World Cup and ODI teams, both strong enough to win. I say this with confidence as the ODI team won the series in the West Indies, with a game to spare.
India’s T20 World Cup team: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul (vc), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Harshal Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Deepak Hooda, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh
India’s ODI team for South Africa- Zimbabwe series: Shikhar Dhawan (c), Ishan Kishan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer (vc), Sanju Samson (wk), Venkatesh Iyer, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan, R Ashwin
While creating a third team representing India in a Test match will be a stretch, India can easily field have two separate quality teams for red-ball cricket and white-ball cricket at any time. This is what I call the evolution of Indian cricket 2.0.