The last time India played an ODI at Ranchi in March 2019, the town’s favorite son MS Dhoni was still stepping out to bat in the middle order, maneuvering the field around behind the stumps. Currently India was preparing for a global tournament as is currently the case but unlike the present it was supposed to have the same format in which they played that particular series (against Australia) and their first team had not traveled at the same time instead across the Indian Ocean.
The ongoing ODI series against South Africa – with the T20 World Cup starting in a week – is so out of context that the main concern for India at the moment must be the growing injury list. After the departures of Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja hit the T20 World Championship main squad, the reserve list has also taken a dent as Deepak Chahar was ruled out for the remaining two ODIs; A BCCI release said Chahar felt “stiffness in his back” after the third T20I against South Africa last Tuesday in Indore. The seaman’s recovery is now being overseen by the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.
— BCCI (@BCCI) October 8, 2022
Chahar made a comeback in August after a six-month injury layoff and his recent hiccup means all pacesetters in the T20 World Cup main squad, as well as reserves, are either injured (Bumrah, Chahar) or recovering from illness (Mohammed Shami) or had at least in the recent past let the cloud of injury hang over them (Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar).
Amidst this uncertainty about the pace attack, Shardul Thakur was asked if he still assessed his chances for the T20 World Cup despite missing the original flight to Perth. “When there are injuries, anyone can come at any time. From now on it is your responsibility to be ready whenever you are asked to play. I will be mentally ready when called. That’s all (there is) in my hands,” Thakur said ahead of the second ODI at Ranchi.
Chahar’s retirement meant the addition of another man on the injury comeback trail, Washington Sundar, as his replacement. Washington has not played in any format for India since February and Thakur has not played a T20I since the same month. But what both bring alongside their bowling skills is added depth, something India is sorely lacking in its T20 World Cup roster.
Washington has a top-notch century and three Test fifties to their credit, and Thakur showed his value with the racquet again on Thursday at the Lucknow ODI with 33 from 31 in 7th place, helping Sanju Samson mend India’s chase from 51 to 4 and 118 for 5.
“I’ve been concentrating on my batting for a long time. Obviously it’s always great to beat 7th or 8th or even whoever comes in 9th if they can add a few runs for the team. It gives you a cushion to defend the total or if you are chasing, the top order allows you to play freely. That’s the difference you can make in 7th, 8th or 9th place,” said Thakur.
“If you see Australia Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc at number 8 and 9 beat even England even their punches are deep. So why not India, even we can have our batting lineup deep and make the difference of 15-20 runs in the game,” added Thakur.
Should Washington (or Shahbaz Ahmed) step in, presumably in place of Ravi Bishnoi, it would give India batting options up to at least No.8. Even then, there is still work to be done for the specialist batsmen after their collapse in Lucknow. After Shikhar Dhawan and Shubman Gill fell to the pacers early, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Ishan Kishan somehow survived the initial barrage only to give it away while attempting to break free against the spin.
Not too much rain is expected in the capital Jharkhand on Sunday, so unlike Lucknow, a full 50-over game could be on the cards. Incidentally, that 2019 game at Ranchi was also the last time Virat Kohli scored a home ODI hundred.