India T20 World Cup Squad Selection Preview: Battle for Specialist Spinner, Reserve Keeper on Cards

India T20 World Cup Squad Selection Preview: Battle for Specialist Spinner, Reserve Keeper on Cards

 Battle for the extra specialist batsman and the extra bowler will be the focal point as India’s selection committee led by Chetan Sharma sit down with the team management to decide the squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup to be held in the UAE and Oman in October this year. While most of the squad picks itself, it would be interesting to see if the selectors go the tried and tested way with experienced hands in the squad or take the risk and add fresh talent. Mind you, even if it is a squad of 15, at least three reserves will be picked owing as has been the case with most squad selections since the pandemic.

While the likes of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Surayakumar Yadav and Rishabh Pant will be in the squad as the core batting unit, the names of Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Prithvi Shaw, Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson will be up for debate. Of them, Dhawan is the one who would be talked about in detail. Even though he was the captain for the limited-overs leg for the tour of Sri Lanka with India’s second-string team, with Kohli expressing his desire to open in T20Is that puts Dhawan’s position in jeopardy with KL Rahul already in the fray as the opener. Dhawan’s finds himself down below the pecking order and rather than have him travel as back-up or in reserve, management may give the Prithvi Shaw a go in the squad, despite not being able to make it count in Sri Lanka. Dhawan was in decent form in Sri Lanka scoring at 28.66 in T20Is and 64.00 in the ODIs.

In to the middle order, Suryakumar Yadav is more or less certain to keep the No.4 slot in the playing XI and he did himself no harm with a good showing in the England T20I in march and then in Sri Lanka in July. Yadav has shown enough enterprising skillset to keep the run-rate up in the middle overs and graft the innings and then accelerate. In England T20Is, he averaged 44.50 in three matches and 62.00 in the 3 ODIs in Sri Lanka; in the T20Is, he played only once before being stuck down by Covid-19, scoring a fifty. As back and in reserves, the next best bet will be Ishan Kishan. The Jharkhand wicketkeeper-batsman has 80 runs from three T20Is, maintaining a strike rate of 40.00, and pips the talented Sanju Samson for one middle-order slot.

Also in fray, and ahead of Kishan is Shreyas Iyer. Iyer was injured in March and is yet to play a competitive match and his fitness and form will be up for assessment in the IPL 2021, scheduled to start September 19. But, irrespective of his form, Iyer’s name throw up interesting conundrum. If fully fit he walks into the squad, if not, selectors may think of dropping him and look to bring in an extra all-rounder or a bowler in the squad.

Onus on Hardik Pandya to bring in the balance to the squad and the playing XI and to further strength the balance Ravindra Jadeja will be in the squad as their first choice spin bowling all-rounder. Shardul Thakur, as a like-for-like replacement for Pandya is a frontrunner to make the squad as the backup, also add to the fact he is currently enjoying the form of his life, things are looking good for the Mumbaikar. In terms of skillset, Thakur has the ability to bowl in the powerplay overs and operate as a holding bowler in the middle-overs, and has the uncanny ability to pick crucial wickets. And, he can even compete for the third seamer’s role in the XI with Deepak Chahar. Among other all-rounders Krunal Pandya, Axar Patel will surely be looked at with at least one of them making it to the squad or as a reserve player. The likely chance is of Krunal as direct cover for Jadeja. Washington Sundar, who has been ruled out with a finger injury from the IPL, could also get a look in as he would be fit by the time T20 World Cup comes around. He may push out either one from Krunal or Axar from the squad if picked.

In the pace bowling department, Jasprit Bumrah is a certainty alongside Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Kumar returned for the Sri Lanka tour after a lengthy lay-off and looked at ease with the new ball. You put a Mohammad Shami in the mix and that is fast bowling sorted for the first XI one would think. Shami’s fitness is a matter of concern after missing in the 4th Test. That brings the focus on the back-ups and leading this will be T Natarajan, Chahar, Mohammad Siraj with Chetan Sakariya having an outside chance. Sakariya went for runs in the T20I series against Sri Lanka while Siraj, very similar to Thakur, is in a red-hot form and hopes of him translating that red-ball form to white-ball may not be entirely misplaced. Natarajan is also coming of an injury layoff, but has shown enough at the international stage and in the IPL to merit a spot at least in the reserves, if not in the squad. Thakur will also be in contention here as a specialist bowler as well – with his batting being a bonus.

That leaves us with picking the specialist spinners, and Yuzvendra Chahal would be the first name in the team sheet after the Haryana leggie regained bit of his lost form with a decent showing in England and in Sri Lanka. Kuldeep Yadav’s unfortunately downward slide pushes him out of contention even as a reserve or standby player. Rahul Chahar though seems to have got the right backing and the performances to make it to the squad. Chahar has featured in the three of India’s last four white-ball series and his returns have been impressive. In five T20Is, Chahar averages 19.57 and has picked up seven wickets, while in his solitary OD, he has returned 3/54. Others in the fray are Varun Chakaravarthy, who has been picked in three India squads but his fitness remains an issue.

He also is a contender to make it to the squad if fit. A surprise pick here could be that of R Ashwin also. Ashwin, after all, has 46 T20I under his belt and has returned 52 wickets at 22.94 and can bowl with the new ball a well. If Sundar is not picked, Ashwin could be in the fray.

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