With six months to go for the next T20 World Cup, India are sending out mixed signals. As the selectors named a 17-member squad to be led Suryakumar Yadav for the upcoming T20Is in South Africa, the core group seems to have been identified. Yet, there is no clear cut signal as to what the future holds for Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul in T20Is.More than the names that made it to the squad — which includes Ravindra Jadeja finding a spot ahead of Axar Patel — it is the note at the end of the press release that generates interest.
The first of the three notes refers to Rohit and Kohli requesting for a break from the white-ball leg of the South Africa tour that precedes the two-match Test series. This means, if the two had made themselves available, there is a strong chance that they would have made the cut, especially after the sort of World Cup they had recently. That they have relied on the experience of Jadeja ahead of Axar, though the latter has had an edge over the former in the shortest format, seems to be a sign of what is to come. Experience is the buzzword, or so it appears.
If anything, one has to now wait till the series against Afghanan, scheduled for January to find out where exactly Rohit and Virat stand in the T20I frame of things alongside KL Rahul. Since the last T20 World Cup in Australia, where their campaign ended in the semi-finals and the selection committee was revamped, the T20I squad has undergone plenty of changes. With Hardik Pandya in charge of the ship and the team consing of the next gen batsmen, the T20 side has been breaking the grass ceiling, playing an enterprising brand of cricket that has seen them grow from strength-to-strength. In the ongoing T20Is against Australia alone, they have had three successive scores of 200-plus, which India believe should be the norm in the format.
From the outset, they have appeared a very bold side, but with the T20 World Cup just six months away, certain doubts seem to be creeping in. The injury to Pandya – who is unavailable for the series and his long hory of fitness struggles mean – India still seem to keep their door open for Rohit, the captain, especially on the back of the World Cup he has had.
Ahmedabad: India’s Rohit Sharma plays a shot during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 final match between India and Australia, at the Narendra Modi Stadium, in Ahmedabad, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. (PTI Photo/Manvender Vash Lav)
In the past six months, from the team management point of view, they have been showing enough signs of moving ahead without Rohit and Kohli in the shortest format, especially given the batting riches India have. From treating T20Is as just a shortened version of ODIs, of late the selectors are showing a vision where they have been studying successful T20 models to bring in the sort of balance that is making the approach the format the way it should be. With regards to Rahul, as things stand, he doesn’t seem to be part of the plans.
It is the reason why, despite the inclusion of Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer and Jitesh Sharma, the selectors have still retained the left-handers in Jaiswal, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Ishan Kishan, Washington Sundar and Jadeja. The Indian Express understands that the selection committee is of the firm view that if it comes down to a left-handed batsman and a right-hander and if there is little to separate in terms of stats, they would prefer having a left-hander.
With the conditions in the Caribbean and US expected to be contrasting, it is in the bowling unit that India seem to prefer the experience. In the spin department, apart from Ravi Bishnoi, who is quick off the surface and will be very handy in the Caribbean conditions, India believe Kuldeep Yadav’s variations will be needed. Even in the pace unit, the selectors have dropped Prasidh Krishna, whose natural length hasn’t helped him to feel at home in the format and have brought back Deepak Chahar. Chahar’s inclusion — ahead of Shardul Thakur — means India, like in the case of the World Cup team, are seeking a better balance which will give them enough batting depth as well as at least six bowling options. And once again, if they have to find the right balance, they have to take a few hard decisions. While Chahar does add depth, the axe might after all fall on the spinners as Jadeja, Washington and Axar hold an edge over the rest.
While India seem to have brought another month’s time to make some hard decisions, a good outing in South Africa could end up doing a world of good for their vision and retaining the core.
T20 squad: Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Tilak Varma, Suryakumar Yadav (C), Rinku Singh, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan (wk), Jitesh Sharma (wk), Ravindra Jadeja (VC), Washington Sundar, Ravi Bishnoi, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Deepak Chahar.