India announced their 15-member squad, along with four standbys, for the upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia and while there were no major surprises, there were a few interesting choices made.

The team returned with a far-from-ideal result at the Asia Cup where they failed to qualify for the final. While it made sense for the selectors to not panic in their decision-making for the World Cup squad, they have definitely made some debatable choices, especially in the standby list.

First things first, let’s talk about the 15-member squad which will be led by Rohit Sharma. Fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel’s absence due to injuries was felt greatly by the Indian team at the Asia Cup and a lot will be expected of them in Australia. It is a big boost to have them back fit and India will hope to see them hit the ground running in the upcoming home T20Is against Australia and South Africa.

India’s squad for the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup:

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.

Now, let’s take a look at what has changed for India from the disappointing 2021 campaign:

Changes in India's T20 WC squad from 2021

Dinesh Karthik Ravindra Jadeja
Harshal Patel Mohammed Shami
Axar Patel Ishan Kishan
Yuzvendra Chahal Shardul Thakur
Deepak Hooda Rahul Chahar
Arshdeep Singh Varun Chakravarthy

Reactions to India’s squad for ICC Men’s T20 World Cup: ‘Dreams do come true,’ says Dinesh Karthik

In terms of batting, there isn’t any surprise in the squad as the top three are set to remain the same from last year. India were knocked out in the Super 12 stage at the 2021 T20 World Cup and over the past year, a lot has been said about the team wanting to adopt a new, aggressive batting approach. But the concern is that their personnel is largely the same.

Batting makeup

Now, it perhaps wouldn’t have made sense to make wholesale changes after the Asia Cup disappointment but despite all the chopping and changing for months before that, India persisting with 10 players from last year’s massively disappointing campaign does make one wonder. Can players simply change their approach to play a certain way or do you need particular style of players to execute particular roles?

Rohit, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav seem set to make up the top four but the lower middle order isn’t certain. Hardik Pandya will surely play all matches, if fit, and that leaves Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik and Deepak Hooda competing for spots, as they did at the Asia Cup.

With Ravindra Jadeja out injured and no other left-hander in the top order, Pant is likely to keep getting the nod despite less-than-ideal returns in this format. Hooda, too, could feature as the management seemed to back him as an all-rounder at the Asia Cup, even though he bowled just one over in the three games he played.

Karthik, having been around for a long, long time, has had a fairytale run to the World Cup squad. He was brilliant as a finisher for RCB in IPL 2022 and often spoke about wanting to win the T20 World Cup for India this year. While it remains to be seen if he ends up getting consistent game-time in Australia, it’s definitely a plus to have his firepower in the squad. And it is certainly a dream come true for the man himself who, at 37, had an IPL campaign so good that his name was chanted at venues.

What of the bowling department?

Coming to the bowling department, this is where India have a lot to address. They struggled to defend totals at the Asia Cup and were taken for runs in every stage of an innings across the matches. Bumrah and Harshal’s return is welcome but India will need to be careful in how they utilise the rest of their resources.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal, R Ashwin and Axar Patel are the other bowlers in India’s squad for the T20 World Cup. Bhuvneshwar and Chahal are likely to start and it remains to be seen if Pandya will be used as a fifth bowler or sixth. Hooda could be picked for his off-spin or Axar for his batting ability. Arshdeep, of course, offers variety with his left-arm bowling.

A big concern in the main bowling squad is the lack of serious pace apart from Bumrah. That Pandya is the second best bet when it comes to pace through the air isn’t too promising when one considers Aussie conditions.

Standbys dilemma

This brings us to the standby list, which raises most questions.

The absence of Ravi Bishnoi from the main squad is a bit hard to fathom. India decided to go with Ashwin instead and there could be a number of reasons for it – his batting edge, his off-spin, or the fact that he has experience and can offer control. But one can’t help but feel that Bishnoi got the short end of the stick.

The 22-year-old leg-spinner, who usually bowls more googlys, was the standout bowler for India in the one opportunity he got at the Asia cup – against Pakistan in the Super Fours. He even picked eight wickets in three games against West Indies last month. At the World Cup, Bishnoi could’ve provided an attacking option for India but unfortunately, for no real fault of his, he has missed out.

Then there is the inclusion of Mohammed Shami. The 32-year-old had plenty of support from experts despite not playing a single T20I since last year’s World Cup. He was impressive in Gujarat Titans’ title-winning run in IPL 2022, where he picked 20 wickets in 16 matches and bowled economically in powerplays, but it remains to be seen what rhythm he is in at the moment having played so little white-ball international cricket in recent times.

Apart from Bumrah, the rest of the pacers in India’s squad aren’t really pacy and this could’ve been a factor while picking Shami as a standby. He has also been included in the squads for the Australia and South Africa series before the World Cup and India would do well to test him out.

Finally, Shreyas Iyer’s inclusion in the standby list is also, to put it mildly, questionable. The right-hander’s troubles against short-pitched bowling are undeniable and with the World Cup being held in Australia, he hardly seems as a strong backup option. He scored three consecutive half-centuries against Sri Lanka at home in February this year but since then, he’s struggled against short balls consistently.

Iyer’s presence becomes all the more surprising if one considers Sanju Samson’s absence. Earlier this year, Samson had received some serious backing from skipper Rohit, who specifically highlighted his usefulness in Australian conditions, but he didn’t end up receiving consistent backing. The 27-year-old has shown a number of times how explosive he can be and unlike Iyer, the quick and bouncy conditions in Australia suit his style of play.

The results in the last two major T20 tournaments cast a shadow on how far they can go but on paper, there is no doubt that this Indian squad of 15 has match winners aplenty. The fact that the biggest talking points are from the standbys list is perhaps a good thing. But India are one injury away, for one of the first 15, from this becoming a factor.