Every eye at the practice arena on Friday was on Yuvraj Singh,if not at the cloudy skies that threaten to overshadow the first T20 between India and New Zealand on Saturday. While captain MS Dhoni too observed the strokes off this fighter a man returning to an international cricket field for the first time since his battle with cancer in the nets,he had a slightly different agenda from the others.
With this two-match series being the last match before the fourth edition of the World T20 starting in a few days in Sri Lanka,Dhoni kept his other eye on the rest of the squad one that looked a little more fleshed out than at any point in the last year or so.
On this dress rehearsal of a series,Dhoni said on Friday that: These two matches are going to be hugely important. Mainly for the fact that the players will get an opportunity to get into the groove ahead of the World T20. Then,he paused and said: Also,we would be able to pick the right combination.
The right combination or the search for it,hence,is going to be the big thinking point for the Indian think-tank before,during and after this T20 series. It could either fall right into place in Visakhapatnam itself with Yuvraj and Harbhajan Singh finding their groove as Dhoni likes to put it within the space of one match itself. Or it could take time,a lot longer than the length of this NZ series,with Yuvraj and Harbhajan displaying lack of international match fitness.
Will it be seven batsmen and four bowlers,or will it be an extra seamer at the expense of a batsman? Also where exactly will Yuvraj play? Will it be at his regular number four,or will he be given a little more breathing space by batting lower down the order? These are some of the many questions that Dhoni & Co will look to get right when the match begins.
The other big concern for the team management will be figuring out just how both offies,Harbhajan and R Ashwin,will play together. Harbhajan has played a lot more T20s in the recent past with Essex,utilising his time out of the Indian Test team well.
It is difficult to return to the Indian team after so long. But both Yuvraj and Harbhajans presence gives us experience in the side. Naturally,both will be hungry for success and will try and cement their places (soon), Dhoni said.
With Irfan Pathan occupying the all-rounders spot,it is likely that India will go in with six batsmen and four bowlers. If the team management want to take a few bold calls,then Ashok Dinda,who sustained injury on his right forearm during practice today,or Lakshmipathy Balaji back in the blue after a prolonged hiatus could be tried. But with Zaheer Khan in the picture,it is highly likely that only one or none of those pacers will get to have a go.
Whatever said and done,a lot of these factors will be decided when Yuvraj walks out to the middle. One way or the other.
Comeback Men to watch out for
Adam Milne: Few Kiwis in the recent past have ever witnessed the hype that 20-year old Milne is currently engulfed in. Tall,fast and (hopefully) accurate,Milne is the latest speed sensation to emerge out of Central Districts,NZ. Coached by none other than Shane Bond,Milne is said to drop below 140 kmph only when he isnt bowling. While he was expensive in his only two T20Is in 2010,domestic experience is said to have chiselled off the rough edges.
Harbhajan Singh: Out of action for Team India due to a poor run of form in all forms of the game since August 2011,the off-spinner is back refreshed,flightier and a lot more focussed. Having re-earned his bones with Essex in the County season,Bhajji is straining at the leash to firstly nail down his spot in the squad for the upcoming World T20,before using these performances to launch himself back into Indias Test fold.
Daniel Vettori: The big question following the second Test in Bangalore was: Would the result of the game have been any different had Vettori been around? We will find out during the two-match T20s,as the very heart of NZ cricket has returned to his side following a groin injury that kept him out of the Test series. The Kiwis always seem a different side with the bespectacled leader around. And having him for the warm-ups before the World T20,is simply priceless.
Yuvraj Singh: Need we say more?