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Cricket news - India search for ideal pit crew with long term T20I gains in focus

The three-match T20I against Bangladesh, though, is the perfect opportunity for India to identify the pit crew that an provide the ideal support to the big names

They say, in Formula One, you don't see a good pit stop; you hear it. You are constantly waiting for the four wheel guns to fire in unison. In what is a very small segment in the race, often 20 crew personnel are trying to achieve that sub-two-second stop. It's that segment where the race isn't just about the driver. A botched pitstop can cost you points or a finish on the podium. Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc learnt it last weekend in Mexico and you dare not remind Daniel Ricciardo of the mishap in 2016 in Monaco. Even a second-place finish couldn't please the Australian driver, whose smile is more famous than his overtaking manoeuvres.

And if Formula One isn't your choice, you can turn to Eluid Kipchoge for example. The first man to run a marathon distance in under two hours would have found it incredibly difficult to cover the 42-kilometre run without the help of 41 pacemakers. The athletes ran in pre-agreed formations in front of Kipchoge to help the Kenyan marathon legend achieve the feat. In sports, often the focus is on elite athletes and in cricket in India, it's the big names that take away the limelight.

The three-match Twenty20 International series against Bangladesh, though, is the perfect opportunity for the think-tank to identify these pacemakers or pit crews, if you may. Virat Kohli has been rested, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya are out with injuries and the team is trying to move on from MS Dhoni. And while the likes of Kohli, Bumrah and Pandya will play a key role in the T20 WC in Australia next year, it will be the support cast that'll be crucial in the side lifting the title - something they haven't achieved since 2007.

The series against South Africa did little to solve the prevailing issues. Navdeep Saini was expensive and has been dropped for Shardul Thakur while Ravindra Jadeja finds himself out of favour because of Krunal Pandya. The major issue though is for the side to identify the middle-order. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli are your top three - at this point - but the problems start bubbling up from the No. 4 spot. What's the perfect spot for Shreyas Iyer? Or for Manish Pandey? Should Rishabh Pant be the finisher or the enforcer during the middle overs? Or should the team start looking towards Sanju Samson as the 'keeper and Shivam Dube as the pace-bowling finisher and as back-up for Hardik?

It's highly unlikely India will find answers to all the questions but there are some certain answers available even before the tour kicks off. The inclusion of Samson is a clear message to Pant to find more consistency, especially with Ravi Shastri stressing the selections won't be made on reputations and that India are looking to adopting a fresh approach.

And while India have their set of problems, they, at this point, pale in front of Bangladesh's. For the visitors, the preparation has been far from ideal. The strike less than two weeks before the tour was followed by Shakib al Hasan getting banned for not reporting corrupt approaches. Despite the strides made in ODI and Test cricket, Bangladesh's T20 side remains a work in progress with some glaring issues to fix. They have the worst economy and average apart from Ireland since the last T20 WC when it comes to full-member nations. If you take only pacers, their economy is the worst and average is only better than Ireland again among full member nations. Shakib's absence not only weakens the batting unit but they are more likely to miss him as a bowler.

And while the side has to endure a tough phase, it's crucial must look at the bigger picture instead of short term gains. Tamim Iqbal isn't part of the touring party and the side has been lacking big-hitters for quite some time now. Apart from Liton Das, no other batsman has a strike rate of more than 135 since the last T20 WC.

After the Pakistan-Zimbabwe rivalry in T20Is, the India-Bangladesh rivalry is the most one-sided one with India taking all eight games played so far between the two sides. It's highly unlikely the depleted Bangladesh side will be able to change that but then, of course, in cricket the last thing you want to do is to predict.


India: Rohit Sharma(c), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Sanju Samson, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant(wk), Washington Sundar, Krunal Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, Deepak Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, Shivam Dube, Shardul Thakur.

Bangladesh: Soumya Sarkar, Mohammad Naim, Mahmudullah (c), Afif Hossain, Mosaddek Hossain, Animul Islam, Liton Das, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Arafat Sunny, Al-Amin Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Shaiful Islam, Abu Haider Rony, Mohammad Mithun, Taijul Islam.

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