Indian Team Cricket – With the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup just over five months away, the inaugural winners of the tournament have plenty of selection dilemmas to deal with.
India enters yet another ICC tournament where over a billion people are expecting their highly talented team to win some major silverware for the first time since winning the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy in England.
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Ahead of the big T20I series against South Africa, Ireland and England, the real situation for the subcontinental giants could be picking the right combination from a wealth of talented players.
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According to initial estimates, Rohit Sharma, K.L. Rahul and Virat Kohli seem sealed in the team.
While these three may eventually be picked, the recent form of Sharma and Virat Kohli is worrying. With just two fifties in 28 innings between the duo and an average of 19.14 for Sharma and 23.76 for Kohli in the IPL, some serious red flags have been raised going into the World Cup year.
If India remain in the top three, it also means they will have three straight at their helm.
Interestingly, six of the previous seven ICC Men’s T20 World Cup winners have had a left-right arm opening pair in the final, the only exception being Pakistan (2010).
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In addition to his consistent IPL numbers, Dhawan has a history of performing well in ICC events, averaging 53.70 in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup and 77.88 in the ICC Champions Trophy. He won the player of the tournament award at the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy and also has fond memories on Australian soil with two ODI centuries and a T20I average of 33.87.
Ishan Kishan, Shubman Gill, Devdutt Padikkal and Ruturaj Gaikwad, who have done good innings for their respective IPL franchises, could be potential options. The biggest worry about picking anyone from this batch is their lack of experience in the back four with only 15 T20Is, with Kishan’s 10 T20Is making up a large part of that number.
Finding a consistent middle order and the seemingly impossible task of replacing MS Dhoni’s finishing ability may continue to be a concern for India.
In the last year, we have seen Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya take turns to fill this void. While Pant will remain indispensable as he is the primary wicket-keeping option, the team still needs another reliable finisher in their ranks.
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In Pandya, India have a versatile bowler who can bowl in multiple positions depending on the match situation. Even unlike Iyer and Yadav, who played just one match between them in Australia, the Gujarat Titans skipper had an incredible tour in 2020.
Pandya averaged 105 thanks to two massive innings of 90 and 92* in the three-match ODI series and also won the Man of the Series award in the T20I series win against the hosts. Confidence has never been an issue for the all-rounder, but his recently acquired role as captain in the IPL seems to have filled that tank to the brim. A perfect blend of form and experience if India are looking for additional options is Dinesh Karthik. Not only was he part of the title-winning teams in both the 2007 T20 World Cup and the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, he also averaged 57.40 and 191.33 for Royal Challengers Bangalore in this year’s IPL.
He did his best, but will the selectors take a leap of faith and add Karthik to the World Cup squad?
India’s preference for, or reliance on, a good spin attack is no secret and we may see them continue to play to their strengths in October.
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Yuzvendra Chahal’s exclusion from India’s 2021 squad was arguably the biggest talking point ahead of the T20 World Cup. The leg-spinner has since left to join a new IPL franchise and with 26 wickets to his name, he currently sits atop the most wickets table this season.
Kuldeep Yadav has been in equally good form over the past two months, taking 21 wickets, while veteran Ravichandran Ashwin has shown his versatility and efficiency with the bat, with a strike rate of 146 at an average of 30.
These are the three good picks already named and we haven’t even mentioned the ever so reliable Ravindra Jadeja. The all-rounder, who is a mainstay of the T20I team, had a less-than-ideal IPL season that started with a poor spell as captain at Chennai Super Kings and was eventually ruled out of the tournament due to injury .
Currently, it would not be a surprise if three or even all four of these spinners board the plane for Australia, with the likes of Axar Patel and Ravi Bishnoi to take their place.
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If there was a graph showing the growth in the quality of fast bowlers in India from 1990 to 2022, this graph would point in a positive direction. Fans will remember that for most of the 1990s the mantle was carried by Manoj Prabhakar, Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad with only a handful of fast bowlers to rely on.
But those days are gone. India’s current fast bowling attack is probably the best they have ever had and their depth backs up the claim.
It is difficult to find many better death bowlers in the world than Jasprit Bumrah. His batting partner Mohammad Shami brings discipline at the top of the innings and with 683 international wickets between the pace duo, experience should not be a problem.
But this is where things get interesting for the Indian selectors, with a host of pacers potentially putting their hand up for the last fast bowling spot in the starting XI.
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Harshal Patel continues to be a threat at the death for all IPL opponents taking 18 wickets and with the versatility he offers, he could be a frontrunner to partner Bumrah to finish the innings.
On the other hand, Punjab Kings’ Arshdeep Singh offers discipline and more importantly, a left arm fast bowling option. Four of the previous seven T20 World Cup winners had at least one left-armer in the winning team.
The only other left-armer India can see is T. Natarajan who also took 18 wickets but was a bit expensive conceding 9.44 runs/over.
And then we have the wildest card ever, where Umran Malik breaks all figurative glass ceilings with his extraordinary pace. Not only has Malik consistently bowled around 150 km/h, he also has 21 wickets in this year’s IPL, which puts him in the top five for the season.
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There is no substitute for raw pace and this is probably one of the only qualities you cannot teach a fast bowler. We often hear the term ‘x-factor’ in T20 Cricket and 22-year-old Malik could be that x-factor for his team.
India could also consider someone with a bit more experience like Shardul Thakur, who was part of the 2021 edition of the T20 World Cup, or look at Prasidh Krishna, who made his international debut earlier this year.
The selectors have some time to make critical decisions, but with the 2022 ICC T20 World Cup less than five months away, they would rather have answers sooner than later. * (statistics/data are as of May 22, 2022)
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The Indian cricket team’s 2021 schedule is tight for the Virat Kohli-led side, who have already started the home season with a memorable 3-1 win over England in the four-match Test series.
For India, the year started with their tour of Australia. They then welcome England home, starting the tour with a series of tests.
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The Test series win helped the Indian team qualify for the final of the ICC World Test Championship against New Zealand, which will be held in Southampton from June 18-22.
Apart from the upcoming edition of the Indian T20 League, Virat Kohli’s men will play the much-anticipated ICC Test World Cup final, several bilateral series, the Asia Cup and the ICC T20 World Cup 2021 in October -November.
After the conclusion of the India-England series, the players of the Indian cricket team will participate in the 14th edition of the Indian T20 League, which is returning to India after about two years, with only six cities hosting the next edition. The tournament starts in April