The year 2020 will see Virat Kohli renew his quest for lifting that elusive ICC trophy as India’s captain. The T20 World Cup in Australia that starts in October this year represents another chance for Kohli and India to end the wait for a world title since 2011 (and an ICC event triumph since 2013 Champions Trophy).
India have now completed the home leg of their 2019-’20 season (for T20Is) that witnessed fewer closer matches than Kohli would have liked to test his side’s credentials. South Africa and West Indies provided decent competition but the Sri Lanka series felt like a waste of time for most involved.
Now, a couple of big tests await: a home ODI series against Australia followed by the tour of New Zealand that starts with the T20Is. While ODI form is unlikely to play too much of a role in selection for the T20 World Cup, the tour down south is going to be an important one and the squad announced for it gives a few hints as to how the management is thinking ahead of the marquee tournament.
India’s squad for five-match T20I series in New Zealand: Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma (VC), KL Rahul, S Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (WK), Shivam Dube, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Navdeep Saini, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur
For reference, the below table indicates how often the players have been featuring for India in the shortest format:
T20Is played since the end of 2019 World Cup
|Player||Matches played (T20Is)|
With that in mind, it is time to take stock of things for the first time for India’s potential 15-member squad for the T20 World Cup. For sake of simplicity, we assume perfect fitness for the players in consideration below, which will change as we get closer to the event.
(Note: The first few slots are guaranteed picks, and the order is purely subjective. Also, the first 11 of the list doesn’t necessarily have to be the first-choice playing XI. This list is not what the writer feels should be the final squad, but a guesstimate of who Kohli and the Indian selectors are likely to pick.)
- Virat Kohli
No-brainer. The only matter of intrigue as far as Kohli is concerned is whether he is genuinely considering batting lower down the order as he has done so during a couple of occasions in the recent past or if it is just part of the experimentation to give the chance to someone else. There has been mixed signals on that front and the answer to that question will end up playing a significant role in deciding the final 15 and indeed, the starting XI.
2. Rohit Sharma
Again, no-brainer. The vice-captain in white-ball formats also happens to be in the midst of a purple patch. India fans will be hoping long it may continue.
3. Jasprit Bumrah
There are very few players around the world who can afford to be injured, out for action for a while and yet find that their stocks truly don’t drop at all. You need to be truly world class for that to be the case and Bumrah is just that: a world-class pacer in every format.
4. Shreyas Iyer
The question now is more rhetorical than relevant: should Iyer have been India’s No 4 even at the ODI World Cup? It is a question that should give MSK Prasad and Co sleepless nights. For now, the Mumbaikar is looking set in the middle order and making the most of the opportunities coming his way. And for what is worth, he is firmly at No 4 in this order.
5. KL Rahul
Here’s a request that most Indian cricket fans will be on board with: just make KL Rahul the opener along with Rohit Sharma irrespective of whether Shikhar Dhawan is in the squad, or fit, or in form. It should be up to Dhawan to show he can either play alongside Rahul and not up to the latter to prove he is still good enough. Because, he is the best opener in this format India have to offer. The fact that he is being considered the back-up keeper is just an added boost for Rahul.
6. Rishabh Pant
It is becoming an endless debate but Pant continues to be the go-to option behind the stumps for Kohli and Co. Sanju Samson got the rare chance against Sri Lanka in Pune but could not make the most of his return to the side and finds himself cruelly out of favour for the New Zealand tour. Pant will continue receiving the chances and it will be up to him to make this debate stop: a few consistent performances should do the trick.
7. Hardik Pandya
It is to Hardik Pandya’s great credit that he continues to be such an important cog in India’s wheel despite a prolonged absence from the international circuit. Allrounders like him do not grow on trees and, without any offence to Shivam Dube, the Mumbai Indians star remains a nailed-down starter, fitness permitting. It is a disappointment that he could not pass the fitness test to feature in the New Zealand series but all he needs is a good IPL to make sure he is back in the mix.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that, at the time of publishing this ladder, his fitness is possibly the only real worry for the Indian management ahead of the T20 World Cup.
8. Washington Sundar
It might surprise some of you that Washington Sundar features as the first spinner on this list but it is no coincidence that he is the only Indian to have played every single T20I since the end of the World Cup in England last summer. He offers Kohli a solid spin option in the powerplay, he is handy in the middle overs and showed in the domestic season that he can do more than a decent job with the bat. His wicket-taking frequency might be a worry but as things stand, he seems to be leading the race among the fascinating race for the spinners’ slots in the squad.
9. Deepak Chahar
The player to benefit the most from the injury-enforced absences of Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar is Deepak Chahar. His sensational new-ball bowling caught the attention in the past couple of IPL seasons but it his vastly improved form at the death that has made him take a few spots ahead of Bhuvneshwar Kumar in this pecking order. Fitness, however, is a big worry and he will need to hit the ground running in the IPL.
10. Yuzvendra Chahal
The wrist-spin twins have been separated since the World Cup but it is Chahal who holds the edge over Kuldeep Yadav, having played more matches than the left-hander in the recent past. Luck has not been in his favour in the recent past but that is where Chahal’s heart and desire to fight past the obstacles stand out compared to Kuldeep’s tendency to let his shoulders drop when under attack.
11. Shikhar Dhawan
In any other scenario, one can make a bold statement that India should look ahead of an ageing opening batsman who is neither in great form nor has a brilliant record in the format but it is an ICC event and it means Shikhar Dhawan’s name will feature in the discussion. He did show flashes of what he is capable of against Sri Lanka but should do much more in New Zealand and in IPL to earn this spot as the third-opener in the side. Keyword: should (because he might feature in the squad anyway).
12. Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Bhuvneshwar’s tryst with fitness is the only issue preventing us from calling him a certainty in this India squad: on his day he is probably, the second best white-ball bowler India have, but those days are proving to be increasingly rare.
13. Ravindra Jadeja
India’s 16-member squad for the New Zealand series features four spinners but it would be fair to assume the final contingent for the World Cup will (or should) not have that many. With Washington ever present in the XI and Chahal taking up the mandatory wrist-spinner spot, it might well come to Jadeja and Kuldeep for a place on the flight to Australia. And given the size of the grounds in Australia and the brilliance of Jadeja to distance on the field like a gazelle, he should be a definite part of the 15 even if not the XI, if he can give a few overs on the field as a substitute. His improvement as a batsman is worth banking on to.
14. Navdeep Saini
In India’s ever-improving pace arsenal, the latest sharpshooter is Navdeep Saini. His sheer pace offers something of a variety to India’s bowling attack and he has shown in the recent past that he is improving his accuracy and variations too. Air-speed is a crucial aspect for fast bowlers Down Under and Saini is impressing on that front.
15. Manish Pandey
Should Kohli be serious about wanting match-winners lower down the order and should India take a punt with Rahul as a wicket-keeper in case Pant’s form is not undroppable enough, Pandey offers a solid option in the lower middle-order. His domestic form has been sensational and he came into the zone in the Sunrisers middle-order towards the end of IPL 2019. He will hope to continue in that vein and pounce on the chances that come his way.
16. Kuldeep Yadav
This could well change in a few months now, but Kuldeep’s case is not quite air-tight as it used to be. As he makes the cut for the tour of New Zealand, where he had good outings last time around, he will hope to not just find form but also show he is maturing as a bowler. Far too often in the IPL last year, one saw Kuldeep slump when he came under pressure. He has shown glimpses of returning close to his best in the recent past and will need to do more to displace one of the spinners in the final squad.
17. Shardul Thakur
Many an Indian fan has wondered why the management keeps returning to Shardul Thakur but with his improved bowling performances and a couple of batting cameos, the Mumbai pacer (allrounder?) seems to be answering his critics. Should any of India’s main pacers be down with an injury, he is keeping himself primed to take up a spot in the squad.
18. Shivam Dube
With a half-century against West Indies on not the easiest of pitches, Shivam Dube showed why he is a batting talent worth backing but his lack of consistency with the ball is the reason why Pandya continues to sit pretty on this ladder. To his credit, however, Dube has done a decent job in the chances he has got and will be hoping for a few more to make a mark on the selectors.
19. Mohammed Shami
The fact that he has just played one T20I since the World Cup might be more down to rotation and workload but Shami has never had the best of records in this format, for reasons not entirely evident. His recent upsurge in form, however, puts him on the fringes of the squad and as he finds himself on the flight to New Zealand in the absence of Bhuvneshwar and Chahar, he can certainly make a case for himself. After all, when we did this for the ODI World Cup, he came into the reckoning out of nowhere.
20. Sanju Samson
Every time you think he has turned a corner, Samson seems to find himself at the wrong end of a raw deal. Ideally, India should have played him at least a couple more times during the home season when Rohit or Kohli were rested at different points but having played just one game where he did not get going, he finds himself out of the squad for what is going to be a good test of India’s T20I credentials. Once again, he is left hoping for a good IPL to force himself back in the reckoning.
21. MS Dhoni
Just because no one quite knows what to make of this Dhoni situation: does a good IPL warrant his selection or should someone who has not played competitive cricket for so long be in the reckoning even?
22. Krunal Pandya
23. Khaleel Ahmed
24. Suryakumar Yadav
25. Shubman Gill
Do you agree with the order in this ladder? Who did we miss out? Who would feature higher up on yours? Let us know in the comments section or tag us on Twitter to join the debate.