Home side has trialled several options with an eye on T20 WC, but needs its strongest XI in decider; England happy with chance to experience high-stakes situations
In its exercise to get the team composition right ahead of the ICC T20 World Cup later this year, India has been in the mood to experiment in this series against England.
New players such as Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav and Rahul Chahar have got their chances, while experienced men, including Rohit Sharma, have enjoyed some rest.
But come Saturday, with the fate of the series on the line in the fifth T20I, India will look to come out all guns blazing with its strongest eleven.
It is only at the top of the order that the home side has some concerns. K.L. Rahul made 14 on Thursday, to go with scores of 1, 0 and 0 in the first three outings. His partner Rohit Sharma, with scores of 15 and 12, has only managed marginally better returns.
New-find Suryakumar lends a confident feel to the middle-order. In his maiden international batting outing on Thursday, the Mumbai cricketer set the stage on fire with a fine 31-ball 57.
Suryakumar’s first-ball six off Jofra Archer, made easy by his early anticipation of a short ball, was the result of his fearless and cerebral approach.
“My plan was clear. I’ve seen him (Archer) in the last two-three seasons in the IPL; I’ve watched all of his international games as well. I know the plans he has when a new batter comes in. I knew he would bowl short to me,” Suryakumar, the Man-of-the-Match, said after India’s victory.
This international spotlight has been a long time coming for Suryakumar, who missed out on the Australia tour despite an outstanding run in IPL 2020. The extended wait to wear the India cap only made the big occasion sweeter. “The passion for this game has always kept me going. I kept working hard — that’s the only option I had. I kept working on my skills, fitness and ticked all the boxes. I knew that when the time is right, the opportunity will come, and I’ll grab it with both hands. “There were some butterflies in the stomach, but I was also happy to know that I would bat at number three. I bat in the same spot for Mumbai Indians, so I knew the situation very well,” the 30-year-old said. Suryakumar got his chance because another talented rookie, Ishan, was forced out due to a groin strain. If Ishan is deemed fit, it remains to be seen whether the team management can accommodate both players in the eleven.
England, on the back of Ben Stokes’ 23-ball 46, came close to wrapping up the series 3-1 on Thursday.
At a media interaction, Stokes acknowledged the disappointment of losing a tight game, but added that there was a lot to look forward to.
“We go into the fifth T20I with a huge amount of pressure on us. That’s great for us, especially with the T20 World Cup coming up. The more pressure situations we are put in, the better for us,” Stokes said.
The squads: India: Virat Kohli (Capt.), Rohit Sharma, K.L. Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Rahul Tewatia, Rahul Chahar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, T. Natarajan and Shardul Thakur.
England: Eoin Morgan (Capt.), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Reece Topley and Mark Wood.
Match starts at 7 p.m.