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Cricket news - Kohli not sweating over India's T20I rankings
India have grown from strength to strength as far as Test cricket is concerned, riding on emphatic performances and an enviable home record to firmly hold on to their No. 1 position - a huge gulf separating them from second-placed Australia in the World Test Championship points table while they also have a healthy lead over New Zealand in the overall Test rankings. Semifinalists in the last two editions of the 50-over World Cup, having clinched the title in 2011, India are not too far behind top-ranked England in the ODI format.
However, their ascendancy in the aforementioned formats has coincided with them dropping down the rankings when it comes to the shortest format. India are placed fifth in the 20-over format and that position isn't going to change soon, even if they clean-sweep the T20I series against West Indies that begins in Hyderabad on Friday (December 6).
But according to Virat Kohli, the T20I rankings aren't really a reflection of the current state of affairs of the Indian T20 team and the discrepancy in rankings when compared to the other formats isn't a matter of concern for the India skipper who reckons they haven't put their strongest team on paper yet in the shortest format, which will change in the lead up to the T20 WC in Australia next year.
"T20 is a format where you experiment a lot more than in ODI or Test cricket. And from that point of view, you take a lot more risk in terms of what you want as a team. You want to give chances to youngsters ... that's happened predominantly in T20 cricket. So you can't really pinpoint where we stand in the rankings and say that's actually a reflection of how the strongest XI for India in T20 cricket has played. Because we haven't played the strongest XI together for many games, (unlike) the case in ODIs and Tests and you see the difference that it makes," Kohli said on the eve of India's T20I series opener against West Indies.
"So, we had that mindset, that we're not going to worry about rankings. For us it's about figuring out who are the players who can make a transition into international cricket, firstly. So this is a good format to take a look at them. But now heading into the World Cup, rankings are going to be irrelevant because in T20, anyone can win on the day. We need to take our best team onto the field. I think our combination is getting stronger and stronger. We'll probably be playing as close to the XI we want in the World Cup as possible for the remainder of the T20 games we have leading into the World Cup. So I think our performances should improve drastically from here on in.
"Two things we need to work on are batting first and defending low totals. It's always good to have challenges as a team. That's something we want to overcome as well if we want to be a complete side. Because for winning a global tournament, you need to have all bases covered. We are looking forward to that," Kohli added.
It's about flexibility and unpredictability
When it comes to covering bases, the options are aplenty for India in all facets of the game. With Deepak Chahar proving his prowess in the recent series against Bangladesh, along with reliable options like Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, India's pace department is being fine-tuned. And when Jasprit Bumrah also returns from his injury lay-off, India will possess a happy problem when it comes to choosing their fast bowling resources.
"It's a good position to be in because everyone is bowling really well and the fight honestly is for one spot," said Kohli about his pace arsenal. "I think more or less three guys have made a place for themselves already. It's going to be healthy competition and interesting to see how it pans out."
And then there's the situation with the finger-spinning allrounders who lend depth to the batting department and the wicket-taking wrist-spinning options. Ravindra Jadeja's batting, fielding and accurate bowling, or Washington Sundar's useful batting skills to go with his frugal bowling ways in the powerplay, or the more aggressive wrist-spinning options in Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, or a blend of this at the expense of an extra batsman? What would be the ideal combination for Kohli?
"Having two wrist spinners is a big advantage when you're playing in Australia in big fields. There might be some games where both might play together but in T20 cricket, as I mentioned, it's all about balance. And predominantly we see one guy (wrist-spinner) playing with Jadeja and Washi because it gives us all kinds of variety in the bowling attack - along with the two-seamers and the allrounder, the seaming allrounder. So you need to have six bowling options in T20 cricket, that's the basic rule. You can't go in with five expecting everyone to bowl four good overs. It gets very difficult as a team after a while. I think that is the balance that we need to create.
"Two wrist spinners, as I said, there might be opportunities for both of them to play together, and we'll see how that can be worked out. But bringing Jaddu back in as well, we feel he's batting really well - he's probably in the best batting form of his life - bowling he's a proper finger spinner, very accurate as well and in the field we don't have any doubts on him. So I think this is really his best phase as an allrounder and we want to maximise that. And Washi has been brilliant with the new ball also.
"So we're very happy with how our options are placed. It all depends on what we need to take on the park, according to which game we're playing. T20 cricket is all about being flexible - in where people bowl, where people bat - there won't be a set pattern. The combination or the eleven might be similar but there won't be a set pattern as to 'this is how we're going to go'. We have to be unpredictable."
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