The Village, Dublin
June 27, Wednesday; 20:30 IST
Live on SPN, streaming on SonyLiv
The main picture
The last time India toured Ireland was in June 2007, also before facing England over a long tour of Tests and ODIs. That Irish tour was scheduled very differently to the current one: India played a one-off ODI against the host before facing South Africa in three ODIs in Belfast. They beat the Irish and won the three-match one-day series against the Proteas 2-1. And, though they were about to play England in a different format altogether, they took a lot of confidence into the four-Test series from winning the preceding one-dayers. (Not to forget, India embarked on that UK tour in 2007 just months after being dumped out of the Cricket World Cup at the group stage.)
In terms of scheduling, this UK tour, which begins with a couple of Twenty20 Internationals in Ireland, is quite similar to the one exactly 11 years ago and, therefore, India will look for a similar start to one of their testing overseas tours.
Ireland have had an eventful few months. They qualified for the Super Sixes of the ICC World Cup qualifiers in March but only managed a fifth-place finish which denied them a spot at next year’s 10-team Cricket World Cup. They also became the 11th Test-playing nation in May, when they faced Pakistan in their inaugural Test. Though they lost that Test by six wickets, the Irish gave a good account of themselves.
From Ireland’s point of view, this T20I series presents another opportunity to assess where they stand against the leading teams in world cricket. The T20I tri-series in the Netherlands acted as a preparation for the India T20Is: Gary Wilson and co. lost twice to the Netherlands, but beat Scotland once and tied the other match. Their performances against Scotland suggest they will at least be competitive for a strong Indian side led by Virat Kohli.
Andrew Balbirnie, Paul Stirling, William Porterfield, Kevin O’Brien, and Gary Wilson make up the core of the Irish batting, while the bowling responsibilities will be shouldered by Boyd Rankin, George Dockrell and Indian-born, spin-bowling all-rounder Simi Singh.
The three-T20I series against England, which follows these two T20Is against Ireland, has contributed to the Indian selectors naming a full-strength Indian squad. As has been the trend with India in recent times, the competition for places is immense and irrespective of the XI who get to play, India will be a tough team to beat.
Pitch conditions and weather forecast
The Village in Dublin hasn’t hosted a Twenty20 International in close to three years. Under overcast conditions, the Ireland and Pakistan bowlers found plenty of swing and seam movement during the Irish’s inaugural Test, though the colour of the ball was different too. With the weather for the first T20I forecast to be sunny and the match starting at 16:00 hours local time, the pitch should be good for batting, with the batsman potentially being able to hit through the line.
India vs Ireland head to head in T20I
The only T20I meeting between India and Ireland came in the 2009 ICC T20 World Cup in England, where the then-defending champion beat the Irish by eight wickets.
India vs Ireland playing XI for the first T20I
Joshua Little, an 18-year-old, left-arm seamer, was one of the replacements in the Ireland squad for the two T20Is against India. He is likely to take the spot of Barry McCarthy, who has been left out from the squad which had been named for the tri-series in the Netherlands. Boyd Rankin has replaced Craig Young and, with his ability to generate bounce off the surface (his pace has decreased in recent years), might go straight into the Irish playing XI.
Possible Ireland playing 11: 1 Gary Wilson (c), 2 Andrew Balbirnie, 3 Paul Stirling, 4 William Porterfield, 5 Kevin O’Brien, 6 Stuart Poynter (wk), 7 Simi Singh, 8 George Dockrell, 9 Boyd Rankin, 10 Joshua Little, 11 Peter Chase/Stuart Thompson
The question concerning India is whether they will field their first-choice XI against Ireland. If you look at the squad that has been named, the team management have many options to choose from. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Virat Kohli will play all three formats of a long UK tour which is scheduled to conclude on September 11 (!) and all three might not play straight away.
In Umesh Yadav and Siddarth Kaul, India have two bowlers who bowled brilliantly at the 11th edition of the IPL and could be given a chance to excel in the same format in India colours. Washington Sundar’s batting might finally get him into the XI ahead of his off-spin, having shown, while playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) last IPL season, that he can play the big shots lower down the order. The batting line-up pretty much picks itself, while Hardik Pandya, as the only all-rounder in the side, is likely to make the XI.
Possible India playing 11: 1 Rohit Sharma/Virat Kohli (c), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Suresh Raina 4 Lokesh Rahul, 5 MS Dhoni, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Dinesh Karthik, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Siddarth Kaul
India, given the quality and vast experience in their ranks (in addition to the flexibility that comes with versatile players), start as an overwhelming favourite. If the Irish bowlers can step up and stifle the Indian batsmen, we will witness a good contest.