India will not be a punching bag in the shorter formats

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 13, 2012 05:59 hrs

It is difficult not to agree with the views expressed by Suresh Raina and Mickey Arthur that India will be a different side in the limited overs game. The matches get underway with two Twenty20 internationals between India and Australia on Wednesday and Friday before the tri-series also involving Sri Lanka commences on Sunday.

The Indian middle order batsman has said that there is a passion to do well and is of the opinion that the new faces will invigorate the team. The Australian coach feels that the Indians, hurt after their abysmal showing in the Tests, will be a totally different side and they have the players to display enthusiasm and lift the sagging spirit of the tourists.

It is well known that the limited overs game is very different from Test cricket. The poor form in one format need not be reflected in the other. The prime example of this would be England who did not have a particular good record in Test cricket in the late 80s and early 90s. And yet this was the time they finished runners-up in two successive World Cup tournaments.

The Indians led by Dhoni won the tri-series for the first time four years ago. They will be keen to shrug off the no show in the Tests and perform creditably in both the Twenty20s and the ODIs. The several changes in the team augurs well for the Indians. In the first place, many in the squad were not part of the Test team so they will be starting afresh.

Secondly, the fielding is bound to show improvement with several youngsters around. Third, the fact that India are the World Cup holders should stand them in good stead. A confident Raina has promised a better showing in the games over the next month or so and there is every reason to agree with him.

Optimism aside, it must also be said that the competition is stiff. Both Australia and Sri Lanka have the right mix and credentials to put in a commendable performance. The two Twenty20 internationals might be a bit of a lottery but the tri-series promises to be keenly fought with each team playing each other four times in the league stage before the best of three finals.

All the same, it can safely be predicted that the Indian limited overs squad will not face the kind of rout the Test team had to endure. There are some in the squad who were members of the devastated Test team and one can only hope that MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Zaheer Khan and Virat Kohli will put the utterly forgettable Test series behind them and look upon the Commonwealth Bank series as a fresh start.

But the main reason to feel optimistic about India's chances are the players who were not part of the Test team. These include Raina, Irfan Pathan, Rohit Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Ravindra Jadeja, Manoj Tiwari and Rahul Sharma. Almost all of them have a chance of figuring in the matches and they bring an ideal blend of experience, youth and a refreshing freshness in the squad.

There is plenty of balance in the squad and the intense competition for the various places should help in keeping the players on their toes. There are claimants for the opening slot, for the top and middle order, for the utility player and for the pacemen.

Another aspect going for the Indians is that since winning the World Cup they have not performed badly in ODIs. The one blip has been the 3-0 loss in England but the balance sheet also shows a 5-0 whipping of England in the return series at home, a 4-1 verdict over the West Indies at home and a 3-2 away verdict against the West Indies.

"There is a desire to achieve something," says Raina adding that the Indians are not short of motivation. He has gone on record as saying that the results of the limited over games will be very different from the lop-sided results in the Tests.

The tri-series gives Dhoni and his men the opportunity to wipe out unhappy memories of the annihilation in the Tests. In a contest between three evenly matched sides, it is the team that can raise the level of their game on a consistent basis that will succeed. The Indians did it four years ago. Can they do it again?

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