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India’s much-awaited tour to England is finally about to get underway and all indications point to a tightly fought contest. We will have to wait a little bit longer for the main course, though, as India begins with two T20 internationals against Ireland. Dublin will be hosting India for these matches which will attract a lot more attention than Ireland is generally used to.
Ireland has been promoted to test status now and can be expected to play against the top flight countries a lot more frequently. This added opportunity also comes with the added responsibility of being competitive otherwise criticism will start to flow. India will be using these matches as an opportunity to get its players used to the conditions and prime them for tougher contests ahead.
As an associate nation, games against the biggest cricket playing nation are rare and provide an opportunity to make a name for yourself. Ireland is no longer an associate nation but the stakes are still pretty much the same.
Ireland started its journey as a test nation with a tightly contested loss against Pakistan and then promptly went on to put in a series of poor performances against the Netherlands and Scotland. Tellingly, the poor performances against associate nations came in the T20 format where Ireland clearly has a lot more work to do.
Ireland played four matches in Netherlands T20 Tri-Series and managed to win only one against Scotland. They lost two against the Netherlands and tied the remaining one match with Scotland. Perhaps the only solace can be taken from the fact that the performances had started to improve as the series progressed.
The world will be watching Ireland in this two-match series, though, and it will have the opportunity to do something special against India. It is not going to be easy because India is an excellent T20 team filled with players that have now been brought up on the IPL as a stepping stone.
There are a couple of things clear after watching Ireland play the T20 series. Ireland is struggling to find new players that will propel its team forward at the international level. Paul Stirling remains their most dangerous T20 batsman but the rest of the batting does not seem to be adept at T20 cricket.
Balbirnie has shown some promise and Ireland tends to fancy Simi Singh as someone who can whack the ball around but there is a clear lack of power in this lineup. Kevin O’Brien is a threat but his T20 cricket record is not the greatest. Gary Wilson scored some runs in the last tri-series but he too is not someone that the Indians will worry too much about.
Ireland’s bowling was found out in the Tri-Series as both the Netherlands and Ireland scored runs with ease. This could be the reason behind the inclusion of Joshua Little, a promising left-handed fast bowler, and Andy McBrine, an off spinning all-rounder.
George Dockrell, Simi Singh, Shane Thompson and the rest will have their hands full against one of the strongest batting units on the planet.
GC Wilson, PR Stirling, J Shannon, Andy Balbirnie, Simi Singh, Stuart Poynter, Kevin O'Brien, SR Thompson, George Dockrell, WB Rankin, Peter Chase.
There are a lot of expectations from this Indian team on this tour. That has not always been the case when India has traveled abroad but Virat Kohli and his men have made it clear that winning abroad is a priority for them.
The fact that India performed admirably in South Africa, dominating the T20 and ODI series against the hosts, has also led to a rise in expectations this time around. Taking all this into account, Ireland should be a cakewalk right?
Things in cricket are rarely ever so straightforward! India has been a poor starter on tours abroad and playing them early is probably the best chance that Ireland has to spring a surprise. India’s batsmen will still be a little wary of the movement these pitches will offer and that usually means wickets up front.
Still, India has the depth and quality to adjust. The return of Kohli, Bumrah, and Bhuvaneshwar to the squad will shake things up a little. All three will walk into the starting eleven without even a second thought. That means that one batsman and two of the bowlers will have to wait for their turn in the side.
There are plenty of ways that the Captain and Coach can decide to go. Dhawan, Rohit, Kohli will make the top-3. There is no doubt about that. The number 4 position should go to Lokesh Rahul, who has been in brilliant form with Manish Pandey and Suresh Raina breathing down his neck.
MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, and Hardik Pandya will likely form the middle order. All three are in good form and adept at finishing games off. We think Karthik has done enough to play as a batsman alone but Manish Pandey could once again be an alternative.
Bhuvaneshwar Kumara and Jasprit Bumrah are sure starters among the four bowlers and it is here that India’s depth stands out. Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, and Siddharth Kaul will compete for the remaining two options. Any two can do the job but it is for the captain to decide what strategy he wants to follow.
Playing three seamers along with Pandya could be the conventional thinking and so Umesh Yadav might make the cut or pick two spinners and hope to exploit that weakness. Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav would be the two players making the first eleven in this case.
Washington Sundar brings batting prowess to the table while Siddharth Kaul brings the ability to bowl yorkers. It may not matter so much in this match but India’s strategy going forward against England will be interesting for sure.
Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, V Kohli, SK Raina, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, JJ Bumrah, YS Chahal.
The team winning the toss is likely to bat first
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A clear day has been forecast for the first match day and we should have a full match played out. The pitch at the Malahide Cricket Club Ground is expected to be flat with maybe a green tinge on the top. Ireland knows that it must hope for some help from the surface but that providing too much grass could backfire. India now has the bowling to reply in kind no matter what the surface is.
A high scoring match is likely, particularly if India bats first.
India and Ireland have played just one T20 before this one which India won with ease. We don’t think the visitors are in too much danger of losing this match either. Ireland will have to play at its best and hope that India has a very poor day for there to be an upset.
On paper, India outclasses Ireland in every single department.
Back India to win.