Should it be Chahal ahead of Bishnoi in T20 World Cup?

Left: Yuzvendra Chahal, Right: Ravi Bishnoi. source: IPL

Sometimes, a step back can be a step in the right direction. Apparently following a principle of looking at new faces, the national selection committee will find it difficult to ignore an old one, when they pick the squad for the T20 World Cup. The familiar face of Yuzvendra Chahal will smile at them when they zero in on the spinners.

Out of national reckoning since August 2023, Chahal has come back strong in IPL 2024 and stood tall amid the carnage bowlers have been subjected to. In the deluge of 200-plus totals and batting milestones, the leg-spinner has done his job in his typically understated way. However, it’s more than just the 14 victims from nine games or economy rate of 9.00.

Is Chahal still capable of delivering for India? In his last series in the Caribbean and the USA against the West Indies, he took five wickets in five games and bowled 18 overs, with an economy rate of 9.05. It was higher than his career economy rate of 8.19. The selectors decided to look ahead and Ravi Bishnoi made it to the XI in all 14 T20Is India played since.

The youngster has 36 wickets from 24 outings and an economy rate of 7.50. These are outstanding numbers in general and exceptional for someone yet to turn 24. But IPL 2024 has not seen Bishnoi at his best. His most memorable effort has been a stunning catch of his own bowling, because five scalps from nine games are not what the selectors want from a spinner picked to take wickets.

A bowler with a big heart and smart head, who looks undaunted by the situation, Bishnoi is short on variations. Primarily a googly bowler and not a big turner of the leg-break, the Lucknow Super Giants player banks more on accuracy and bounce than subtleties or guile. He is economical on his day, most days to be fair, but he can become predictable. And that is a disadvantage in this format.

Chahal, on the other hand, has more variations up his sleeves. He mixes things up with changes in degree and direction of turn, flight and length. There can still be an unknown element in him. Most importantly, he has this ability to lure batters into mistakes after being hit. This battle-hardened pro knows that wickets in the middle stages for 10 runs an over is a good bargain.

This Indian team wants to take wickets and there are not many safe bets other than Jasprit Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav at the moment. Given that the pitches in the T20 World Cup are expected to be on the slower side, spinners may have a prominent role to play. With Ravindra Jadeja being more of a container, the Rajasthan Royals man can be the ideal choice.

The selectors did not look back at Cheteshwar Pujara during the Test series against England in the absence of Virat Kohli. But it’s something to think long-term to reach the next World Test Championship final and something else to select horses for courses for the T20 World Cup. The second is an end in itself. Planning for the 2026 edition can start after this one.

Age should not go against Chahal either. Turning 34 in July, he is younger than Virat Kohli (36 in October) and Rohit Sharma (37). If these two are certainties for the T20 World Cup, Chahal can also be in contention. Despite a bad day against Lucknow, India’s most successful T20I bowler is still just one short of the joint-highest wicket-takers in IPL 2024. Bishnoi got just one over in the game, conceding 16 runs.

Also Read: Fraser-McGurk – The six-hitting machine from Box Hill