It’s been a busy week for the India T20 side. Disappointment at crashing out at the Super 4 stage of the Asia Cup after going in as hot favourites to win it was followed by their announcement of their Squads for upcoming home series against Australia (3 matches, September 20-25) and South Africa (3 matches, Sep 28-Oct 4).
But what we’re going to focus on here is the T20 World Cup squad, announced on Monday.
India are currently the 4.0 joint favourites with Betway to win the World Cup, alongside hosts and defending champions Australia.
India’s T20 World Cup Squad
Here are the 15, plus four stand-by players.
For the record, all teams can change their squads up to the first match of the tournament but that’s probably only going to happen in the case of injuries.
Theoretically a team could bring in a player to the squad who wasn’t a stand-by player, but that’s even more unlikely to happen.
WC Squad- Rohit Sharma (Captain), KL Rahul (vice-captain), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Dinesh Karthik (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, R. Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh.
Standby players – Mohammad Shami, Shreyas Iyer, Ravi Bishnoi, Deepak Chahar.
Here are the major talking points.
It may seem odd to kick things off with a player who won’t be there rather than one who will but this is no ordinary player: this is Ravindra Jadeja we’re talking about.
In many ways Jadeja is a completely unique player.
A left-arm spinner who often bowls his four overs (and goes for few runs) who is by far the team’s best fielder. To take that a step further, he’s probably the best fielder in the world.
And he’s come on leaps and bounds with the bat in recent times, often being promoted up the order to 5 or 6 from his more usual position at 7 or 8, both by CSK and India.
That’s especially important because teams like to have right hand/left hand combinations at the crease and right now, only Rishabh Pant (who may not play anyway) is the only left-hander in their Top 6.
Jadeja won’t be there because he (controversially) got injured while performing exercises in a swimming pool during the Asia cup in the UAE; many question why he was doing such exercises in the first place.
In Axar Patel they have something of a like-for-like replacement and Patel rarely lets anyone down. But then again, there’s only one Jadeja.
The Kohli question
Had Virat Kohli had a poor Asia Cup and it’s not impossible that he would have been axed for the two upcoming T20I Series and consequently, the World Cup, as well.
After all, this is a player who was poor in the last two editions of the IPL and the last T20 World Cup. He also scored just 11 and 1 in two outings against England in July.
But Kohli being Kohli, he came good when it mattered in the Asia Cup.
A steady 35 against Pakistan was important in winning the opening game, 59 not out against Hong Kong meant India were never going to lose that one and 60 off 44 against Pakistan in the Super 4 was a valiant effort, even though India went on to lose the match.
Unfortunately for India, he was out for 0 against Sri Lanka, a big factor in India losing that one and crashing out of the tournament.
But he saved the best for last: an incredible 122 not out off 61 against Afghanistan in the last Super 4 match, opening the batting.
So unless he has a shocker in the two upcoming Series, he’ll play in the opening match of the World Cup.
Whether it’s at three or as an opener, remains to be seen.
Should India have picked Arshdeep Singh over Mohammed Shami?
A few eyebrows were raised when India picked youngster Arshdeep Singh over veteran Mohammed Shami for the Asia Cup as a specialist death bowler.
True that Shami’s T20I record isn’t great and many (unjustly) blamed him for that costly loss to Pakistan at last year’s World Cup.
Yes, he was expensive on the day but he certainly didn’t lose the match by himself.
As it happens, Singh was ok at the Asia Cup with five wickets in five matches, though his economy rate of 8.62 was the worst of anyone in the side who bowled, except Hardik Pandya and Avesh Khan.
Indian selectors may point to the fact it’s good to have a left-arm quick in the death overs and that at 23, they’re already planning for the future with Singh.
Assuming he plays, only time will tell if Singh rather than Shami was the right call.
Then again, Shami is on the stand-by list and may yet be called up anyway.
Pandya the main man
In the absence of Jadeja, Hardik Pandya may just be their most important player of all at the World Cup.
He played brilliantly for Gujarat at the IPL and also led them very well as skipper to the title in their first season as an IPL team.
He wasn’t always great at the Asia Cup but let’s not forget he was man-of-the-match in their opening game win over Pakistan with his cool-under-pressure 33 not out in the chase to go with 3/25 with the ball.
The big difference from last year to this one is his bowling.
Last year he was hardly bowling at all because of injuries, now he’s often bowling the maximum of four overs and often doing so in the Powerplay overs.
By the way, look out for him at big odds in individual matches in the India Top Bowler market at the World Cup.
Add in his sharp fielding and ability to bat anywhere between 4 and 7 and score quickly with big hits and you can see why he’s such a key man for them.
Pant or Karthik?
That India picked both Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant came as no surprise.
Yes, KL Rahul can also keep wicket but he didn’t at the 2022 IPL and both Lucknow and India prefer to play him just as a batsman.
But they face a big dilemma when it comes to which of the two to pick.
Most would agree that Karthik is the better wicket-keeper of the two.
And also the better ‘finisher’; batting at 6 or 7, a master at running hard and frequently finding the boundary in the all-important death overs, particularly when chasing.
But Pant is sort of the Golden Boy of Indian cricket right now and probably the better all-round batsman of the two.
He’s also left-handed and as we said when discussing Jadeja above, just about the only one they have.
The alternative of course is to pick both with Pant at five and Karthik at seven (Pandya at six), with Karthik probably taking the gloves.
The problem with that is that they’d then only have five bowlers and no room for maneuver if one of them is having a bad day.
This may just about be the Indian selectors’ toughest decision of all.
Bet India’s recommended XI for the World Cup
Rohit Sharma (C), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Sky Yadav, Rishabh Pant (WK), Hardik Pandya, Deepak Hooda, Axar Patel, B Kumar, Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah.