T20 World Cup: Pandya place to be deliberated, a few more places up for grabs

From Left: Mohammed Siraj, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson, Axar Patel. Source: IPL

Yashasvi Jaiswal’s blistering 60-ball 104 against Mumbai Indians was timely. Not that his indifferent form running into that game would have affected his T20 World Cup selection, but the youngster would like to carry a rich vein of form into the ICC event, to be played in the USA and the Caribbean in June.

The Ajit Agarkar-led selection committee is likely to pick a 15-member squad soon, along with five stand-bys. The majority of the squad picks itself. Debate, though, remains over a few places.

First the certainties… Rohit Sharma will captain the side and Jaiswal is likely to partner him at the top. Virat Kohli’s strike-rate — 145.76 in the ongoing IPL — remains an issue, but once he was brought back to the Indian T20I fold in the home series against Afghanistan earlier this year, it became clear that the 35-year-old would be at the World Cup as well. The decision to pick him might not be unanimous, as there have been reservations in certain quarters. But the selectors are unlikely to ditch a superstar like Kohli at the eleventh hour.

Suryakumar Yadav walks in at No. 4. The world’s best T20 batsman is fully fit, and he has a couple of half-centuries in this IPL.

Suryakumar Yadav for MI
Suryakumar Yadav for MI (PC: X)

The only doubt about Rishabh Pant was whether he would be able to take the strain of a cramped schedule in the IPL, coming back to competitive cricket after a 14-month lay-off. How will his body that went through the horror of a car accident, react? Pant has passed the test with flying colours. He is the third-highest run-getter in this IPL. The southpaw will go to the T20 World Cup as India’s first-choice wicketkeeper-batter.

“Hardik Pandya’s hitting ability is going down. That’s a big worry on a larger picture. At the Wankhede he is different, but on pitches where there is little help is what is worrisome for him,” former India seamer Irfan Pathan posted on his X handle a few days ago.

The Mumbai Indians captain is seemingly playing under pressure, and he is struggling. More than the fact that he has just 151 runs from eight matches, Pandya has failed to play a single impact knock yet. In bowling also, he hasn’t done much IPL, going at around 11 runs per over with just four wickets in his kitty. Have injuries taken a toll on his batting and bowling?

Then again, Pandya is India’s only genuine seam-bowling all-rounder who has the experience of performing on the big stage. Shivam Dube might be setting the stadiums alight with his batting, but he hasn’t bowled yet in this IPL. Can he be considered ahead of Pandya? The latter might no longer remain an automatic pick, but omitting him could upset the team balance.

Shivam Dube for CSK
Shivam Dube for CSK (PC: X)

The Indian team management has invested in Rinku Singh as a finisher and he has lived up to the challenge. Rinku should be on-board the flight to New York.

Ravindra Jadeja gets into the team by dint of his quality and pedigree, irrespective of his IPL form. Kuldeep Yadav is India’s best spinner at the moment and Jasprit Bumrah is Indian cricket’s crown jewel.

Mohammed Siraj’s poor form in the IPL is unlikely to hamper his selection for the T20 World Cup and Arshdeep Singh’s ability to bowl at the death makes him a strong favourite to get into the squad.

As for the fourth seamer’s slot, it is learnt that Avesh Khan and Harshal Patel are in the reckoning. Both have played for India and they are having a decent IPL. Avesh has eight wickets from as many matches at an economy rate of 9.41, while Harshal has accounted for 14 scalps in nine matches at an economy rate of 10.18.

The race for the third spinner could be tight, with Axar Patel, Ravi Bishnoi and Yuzvendra Chahal being the contenders. Bishnoi has been the Indian team’s preferred choice in the shortest format of late, but Chahal is in sparkling form, claiming big wickets. Axar, a very capable lower-order bat, brings better balance to the side.

As regards to the reserve wicketkeeper, RevSportz has already reported that it’s a three-way contest between KL Rahul, Sanju Samson and Jitesh Sharma.

Ideally, Shubman Gill should get into the side as well, at least as a reserve opener. But with Rohit and Kohli in the top order, there might not be a vacancy for him. In 2007, Indian cricket embraced youth, won the inaugural T20 World Cup and set a template. It seems to have forgotten the template since.

Probable XV

Rohit Sharma, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Rinku Singh, KL Rahul/Sanju Samson/Jitesh Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravi Bishnoi/Axar Patel/Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan/Harshal Patel.

Also Read: Fresh debate over Kohli’s approach after 118 strike-rate knock against SRH