My Thoughts

The one position India have been experimenting a lot over the past 18 months has been the opening slot. Like all the formats in cricket openers are key in T20 as well. In the last World Cup, India openers failed to provide good starts in two most important games which meant that India struggled to put up good totals on the board. While experimenting and giving opportunities to players is fine, with the tournament so close India do need to identify who their 3 opening candidates will be.

In the last 18 months, India have tried as much as 11 different openers. In the ongoing series against West Indies as well India is experimenting with Suryakumar Yadav at the opening slot. It is strange that they are trying to get Sky to open as he just scored a brilliant hundred playing in the middle order against England last month. Rohit Sharma who will for sure open in the World Cup has played the most games as opener since January 2021. He has had 20 tries at the top followed by Ishan Kishen who has played 16 games. KL Rahul who when fit might be the other first choice opener has played 11 games.

Apart from these 3 India have randomly tried multiple people at the top. Ruturaj Gaikwad has played 8 games at the top, followed by Dhawan with 4. India have also tried Rishabh Pant, Deepak Hooda, Sanju Samson, Prithvi Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav and even Virat Kohli at the top over that time. It does seem like Shikhar Dhawan might not be part of India’s T20 plans anymore as he wasn’t selected for any series this year in that format. Prithvi Shaw who just played one game and got out for a duck also does not seem to be in the radar. The rest though have been with the squad at various times over the past 18 months.

While it is okay to play around with the middle order and given them a taste of various positions in the batting order, the opening should always be a specialist one. If India thinks Ishan Kishen is their main option, they should be playing him at the top with Rohit in every game he is fit and available. I don’t see a reason why there was a need to disrupt Suryakumar Yadav’s middle order success to fit him in as an opener. This not only disrupts his rhythm, it also makes him lose confidence with some low scores. Yadav has been playing in the middle order in IPL and India and that is where he has had most of his success. So changing that isn’t going to help him, even for this one series.

This also upsets the rhythm for Rohit himself as he has been playing with so many different openers over the last year or so. As a combination you would like to open with someone you are comfortable with and it does seem like India quite unnecessarily have been meddling with this position. Ishan Kishen has played 16 games as an opener over the past 18 months and has 508 runs at 32 at a SR of 135. Good record in this format and should be playing as an opener when Rahul isn’t available.

This exactly was the way India approached the WC 2019 and T20 WC 2021 and what it created was a chaos and a inconsistent team combination which fell flat at the most important juncture of the tournament. While juggling the middle order is okay to provide players with chances and opportunities to spend time at the middle, the opening combination needs to always be settled. With KL Rahul not being available due to fitness and COVID, India should take opportunity to play Ishan Kishen as much as possible at the opening slot. Ruturaj Gaikwad who has played 8 games as an opener is also someone who could have been given a longer run.

The World Cup is just 2 months away and the right players aren’t getting opportunities to play. Unless India are genuinely thinking that Suryakumar Yadav is a opening candidate, he should not be playing that that spot. I feel India’s best bet at the top would be Ishan Kishen, Ruturaj Gaikwad, KL Rahul and off course Rohit Sharma. These are the only 4 players who should be playing at the top with more opportunities to get the necessary practice. The Asia cup squad would give us better insight as to what the team management and the selectors are thinking but again so far the combinations the team has been playing have been muddled.

Before we search for an answer to the question in the title, let’s look at the last two world tournaments India have been part of. After a heartbreaking loss at the 2017 Champions Trophy India made a host of changes in the years leading up to the World Cup in England. Most of the changes were welcomed by the fans and experts alike. The biggest failure of the Kohli-Shastri era in the limited overs format was their lack of patience.

When we look back at the 2019 WC, fans might say that India did very well. You cannot argue with them as the team reached the semi-finals in one of the toughest formats in recent times. India won most of the games in the league stage and were comfortable entrants into the knockouts. While the above was true, the wins in the league format just papered over the cracks which existed in the squad ahead of the tournament. While all of us wanted India to do well and win everyone knew the squad picked wasn’t right.

In the 2018/19 season India were touring Australia where the former managed to win their first Test series down under. Not only did they win the Test series, they also won the ODI series there. From Australia India travelled to New Zealand where they once again won the ODI series 4-1. The success of the above two mentioned wins along with an impressive 5-1 in South Africa a year ago was due to the fact that the Indian top order was in blistering form. The bowling was doing exceptionally well with Kuldeep & Chahal picking up wickets with their spin in the middle overs. Ambati Rayudu was India’s preferred number 4 and even though Virat hardly played the same XI in two consecutive games, the team did look settled.

The series in Australia & New Zealand was just a few months before the World Cup and for some reason every thing went haywire between those series and the WC in England. The squad selection was all over the place and India discarded Rayudu who was with the team for 2 years prior to that and picked Vijay Shankar from nowhere. Rishabh Pant made it to the squad as well despite not doing much in LOIs prior to the tournament. India did enter the tournament banking a lot of the top 3 which showed in their performances through the tournament. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan were all in great form and they did kind of drag India to wins in the early part of the tournament and helped mask the mess which was the middle order.

India did get a glimpse of what could happen against Afghanistan but again a narrow win in that game made sure they did not learn much from it. The biggest problem for India was that for 2 years after Champions Trophy India failed to settle the middle order. The top order form meant that middle order hardly had to do much and players who were part of the teams over that time were discarded prior to the tournament. Shreyas Iyer who had some good games for India lost his place, so did Rayudu who did well for India averaging 50 over that time. The squad selection was so absurd that India ended up playing 3 genuine wicket keepers in the semi-finals against New Zealand. The injury to Shikhar Dhawan did not help India’s cause but again you don’t go to a tournament without a proper replacement for the openers. KL Rahul who started in the middle order was moved up to open and that left a huge hole in the middle order in the absence of Ambati Rayudu who was playing at that spot for 2 years prior to that tournament.

Vijay Shankar who played the first few games was discarded and India started playing random players in the middle order. When the top order failed in the semi-final the inexperienced middle order struggled to pull India out of the hole they dug themselves into way before the match began. The 2021 WC was similar in the sense, India went in with an unsettled batting order again depending on the top order who this time weren’t in form. The 2022 T20 WC in Australia unfortunately resembles the chaos India had before the 2019 WC. India’s first choice top 3 aren’t in greatest of forms and KL Rahul hasn’t played for a while.

The middle order isn’t any better with a host of names being thrown around but the only solace for India is the return to form of Y Chahal and Hardik Pandya. Majority of Indian first choice players are resting for this series against West Indies and for sure will not travel to Zimbabwe as well. This would leave a bunch of undercooked players turning up for the tournament with many of them not in form leading up to it.

I have lots of respect for Rahul Dravid as a coach but I feel he needs to make sure the mistakes of the last two tournaments aren’t repeated this time as well. Virat Kohli is a sure shot selection for the T20 WC but has no runs behind him leading up to the tournament and he isn’t playing any games right now. Rohit Sharma is shaky form and he isn’t playing much games either. KL Rahul is injured and hasn’t played much this year either. These are worrying signs. India are basically playing the next two series with second string teams with many of them vying for a spot in the squad. Squad selection is crucial and I hope players who have been performing well over the past year are given priority. Shreyas Iyer & Suryakumar Yadav should be in the squad and so should Deepak Hooda who will most probably play the games leading up to the WC.

India also need to make sure they have appropriate backups for each position and do not go in expecting there will be no injrues. Shubman Gill needs to be in the squad as well as an opener. The WC is still 3 months away but with limited games in hand, the selectors along with coach/captain combo need to make sure they pick the right players for the tournament. India have struggled to win major tournaments for a while now and this year will be crucial for Rohit/Rahul combo. They have had a good run in ODI/T20’s but again WC is a completely different challenge to the bilateral series they have been winning. India need to figure out their ideal playing XI which cannot be done with majority of the payers resting for most of the year. WC isn’t the place to experiment and if India want to make a mark in this world cup, they need to make sure they know what their best playing XI will be.

I grew up predominantly in the 90’s. My early tryst with movie reviews were through newspapers. We lived in Chennai and Hindu’s Friday feature was the only way to get a movie review at least till mid-90’s before satellite TV took over. Even though there were movie reviews in print in the 80’s & 90’s people went to the theatres solely based on either the cast or the director. Tamil cinema is one of the few industries where directors have the same pull as the actors. For example in 70’s & 80’s K Balachander, Mahendran, Balu Mahendra & Barathiraja had their own following and people will flock to theatres just to see their films. Even when movie reviews were prevalent in the print media in the 80’s word of mouth was still the preferred way of people finding out about the quality of a movie.

For example when a Rajini film released no one cared about reviews, you will see people standing in long queues to watch a film. Same with Kamal Hassan and other big stars. Once the first few shows were over, the audience talk will what will decide the fate of a film. Things have changed drastically over the past decade and with the advent of social media reviews are almost instant. While the audience post their reviews on Twitter while watching the film, there are 100’s of YouTube channels reviewing the movies as well. To be frank I have lots of respect for people who have their own YouTube channels. It takes courage to put yourself out there and talk about anything. There are a few creative channels while most of them are either reaction channels or movie review channels.

There are a few professional ones working for famous publications while others who have garnered subscribers through their content. I have no way of knowing credentials of any of these so called “Film experts” by just looking at their content though. It is very important for anyone who is reaching out to a large audience to understand that movie reviews are basically personal opinions. Something the experts these days seem to have forgotten. The popularity of their channel or the subscribers they have seems to have completely gotten to their head which makes for some cringe movie reviews. As a consumer of such reviews, the only thing I want to see is what the reviewer thinks about the film, what he/she likes or dislikes about the movie. I am not there to see some agenda driven rant or the reviewers trying to show off their knowledge of film making. As a common man I care a damn about some of the content of the reviews as it does not matter to me.

Also as a reviewer you need to steer clear of generalising. Everyone has the right to say they don’t like the movie but they cannot be under the illusion that they speak for others. The reason these “experts” have a huge following is because people actually respect their opinions. When that happens it also becomes the responsibility of the reviewers to stay balanced when they review the movies. Using their popularity to further their agenda or someone else’s agenda isn’t very ethical and that is the reason I steer clear of few of these channels these days.

The other irritating part about these YouTube channels is that they go looking for controversy as soon as some update on a movies comes about. A film releases it’s first single or a look or a teaser they immediately go on the streets with a mic and a camera asking people on the streets their review. Reviewing a movie is a tough art and being balanced is even tougher. I have hardly seen a few reviewers who give their opinion and let the audience make a call whether they would like to watch a film. That’s how it should be as trying to influence the audience is not why you review a movie.

The one thing everyone needs to understand is that there is nothing called a perfect film. A movie which is perfect for someone might not be for someone else. A film succeeds because there is something which keeps the viewers entertained throughout its runtime. That is exactly what the audience wants. Most of the reviews these days feel like they come right out of a film school. While it is good to show off your knowledge of film making, I feel that should be in a separate video and not in the review itself.

The biggest disappointment for me though is that while technology wise we have come a long way, the quality of movie critics has fallen in recent times. Things aren’t going to change much as in this age of competition people are ready to present controversial content to gather more views and subscribers. When that is what these channels aim for, you cannot expect them to give quality content to the viewers. The sad part is that the viewers also have gotten used to these substandard and agenda driven reviews that they seem to think that this is the norm. I have stopped watching majority of the review channels and only follow a few who I think try to provide balanced take on a film and leave rest to the viewers.

What do you think about movie reviews these days? Do you think they provide you with balanced views on a film? Or do you think they try to push their agenda on their viewers?

I am a big Virat Kohli fan and like everyone I want him to come back to form and score loads of runs for team India. Since his last hundred against Bangladesh in 2019, Virat has struggled in Tests mostly but has had decent success in other two formats until recently. The home series and the one which just concluded in England hasn’t been very kind in terms of runs for the former captain. The problem also has been that in between these poor performances, Virat hasn’t been playing too much cricket. He did play in the IPL this year though with limited success for RCB.

After another poor series against England earlier this month, Virat has once again requested for a break thereby missing the series against West Indies. Over the past year or so the Indian superstar has hardly played any international cricket or otherwise except for the IPL. This is why these constant breaks need to be taken with a pinch of salt. As a star player in the team and one of the leading players in the world a prolonged struggle for runs mean you either play as many games as you can or try to improve form in domestic cricket away from the spotlight. Virat hasn’t done either over the last couple of years.

While the reason for Cheteshwar Pujara to represent Sussex might have been due to the lack of interest from the franchises to pick him, it is at least commendable that he forced his way back into the Test XI with performances. Virat Kohli hasn’t played much domestic cricket nor has he expressed any desire to play county cricket to try and get back some form. While mental fatigue might be one of the reasons for players to lose form, Virat’s issues seems technical too. The way he has been getting out in all formats over the past couple years shows that his weakness outside off stump has returned.

I am not saying that Virat isn’t working on his chinks but again practicing in the nets can only take you that far. It will be wonderful if Virat gets back his form and starts scoring runs again as that will make India much stronger in all formats but breaks aren’t going to help him achieve that. Rohit in no uncertain terms has confirmed that Virat Kohli will be part of the Indian XIs despite his lack of runs, so we will for sure see him in the team once he is available. The question now will be how long will that rope be extended to the legend before it runs out? The question only the team management can answer or maybe they don’t have to if Virat starts scoring runs again.

The first time I saw Virat Kohli bat was in the 2008 ODI series against Sri Lanka. A series made famous by Ajantha Mendis who tormented the Indian team throughout that tour. Virat was pushed to open the batting with Gautam Gambhir in the absence of the seniors and as a 19 year old playing on some unusually bowling friendly conditions he showed a lot of composure. Since then Virat was marked for greatness and for the next decade he did not disappoint.

Virat had to wait a year before he became a permanent fixture in the Limited Overs format but he had to wait a little longer in Tests. His breakthrough series came in Australia in 2011/12 after a poor outing in West Indies in 2011. Virat even at a very young age came across as someone who always wanted to succeed. He was aggressive and mentally strong, a product of that time in a team which was lead by MS Dhoni.

In just couple of years he Virat became the leader of the new age Indian Test middle order post the retirement of the greats. Him along with Pujara and Rahane became the face of Indian batting for the next decade. Virat loved Test cricket and he did not shy away from making that known to everyone. From the time he took over the captaincy from MS Dhoni in the middle of the 2015 series against Australia he always wanted to make India a force in the format. He started to work on his fitness thereby inspiring the next generation of Indian cricketers and brought about the change in the mindset of the team.

His confidence in the pace bowlers meant that India went from a bunch of spray guns to bowlers who could hunt in pairs and make life difficult for the opposition. After the 2015 Australian series, Virat asked his bowlers to watch Josh Hazlewood who not only bowled economically but also ended up with the best average among pacers in the series. Virat always had the hunger to keep improving himself and you could see that in his preparation. After his disastrous 2014 tour of England, he made it a point that he wouldn’t do the same mistake when he toured again in 2018.

From that series in Australia in 2012 till 2019 November (Month of his last international hundred) Virat scored more international runs than any other player in the world. His 17872 runs were scored at 60.99 with an incredible 62 tons. He not only became the best all-format batter at that time but also transformed the Indian Test team into number 1 team in the world. The Indian pace attack became the best in the world and Indian became the flagbearer for Test cricket.

But again when things were going brilliantly for Virat the batsman & the captain, things took a turn after the home series against Bangladesh in 2019. Virat’s batting form started to dip and while India continued to be a good Test side the collective failures of the experienced middle order became the topic of discussion. Virat is yet to score a hundred in any format since November 2019 his 2478 international runs during that time came at 37 with no centuries. His ODI & Test form were the most affected while his T20I record still remained good.

His dip in form meant that Virat also relinquished his Test captaincy after the series loss in South Africa earlier this year, this also meant that he was forced out of the LOI leadership as well. Virat has always been this fighter who always proved his doubters wrong but this time it does feel that he probably lost that hunger to improve. His weakness outside offstump which he fought so hard to improve upon after that 2014 series in England has returned and this time it has started to affect his limited overs batting as well.

His performance in this ongoing IPL further highlights his struggles. He has struggled to score runs this season and when did score, he has struggled to maintain a good strike rate. He has had 3 first ball dismissals this season as well which hasn’t happened ever in his career. The year 2022 is an important one for India and with the T20 world cup around the corner, India would need Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma to be in good form with the bat to guide a young team.

Virat still has at least 2-3 years of cricket left in him but I do expect him to retire at least from one format soon. His Test record has taken the most hit and with his average dropping below 50, couple more failures in the upcoming season might see him bid adieu to the format. It will be sad if Virat isn’t able to turn this form around to finish his career with an average of 50+ which he so deserves.

Virat did have a spark at the end of the the IPL with a match winning 70 odd in a must win game for the RCB but again there wasn’t much else after that. While as fans we would love for him to get back to his pomp but again it will all depend of what Virat Kohli wants from his career here on in. It will be disappointing if Virat hangs up his boots without 10K Test runs at 50+ average, so the hope is that he will be able to have that one last dash towards greatness.

I have been following Indian cricket since early 90’s and never have I seen such an injury ravaged touring in my life time. When India landed in Australia on 12th November 2020, they already were missing Ishant Sharma and Rohit Sharma and knew that their captain Virat Kohli will be leaving the team after the first Test. The tour started off with the ODI series for India and by the first T20, India had already lost Jadeja to injury. This meant that the genial all-rounder had to miss the first Test at Adelaide.

Despite that one could argue that the Indian team that played the Adelaide Test was almost at full strength and was only missing the services of Ishant Sharma. Rohit Sharma isn’t a regular in Tests yet and India seldom play Jadeja and Ashwin together overseas. But again when the first Test was completed under bizarre circumstances with the tourist getting bowled out for just 36 the lost further two personnel. While Virat’s exit was already known the injury to Mohammad Shami was a body blow for an already depleted Indian attack.

While India had to pick themselves up from the disaster of Adelaide they also had to dig deep into their reserves to get a good XI on the field. The failure of Prithvi Shaw meant Shubman Gill made his debut. Mayank Agarwal who was a main stay of Indian top order was struggling with his unusually high backlift which he probably picked up during his IPL stint. The Indian team fought hard and beat the confident hosts proving all comers wrong with their resilience and courage.

while things were looking good for the tourists finally injury to Umesh Yadav further dented the Indian team which was already missing 3 of their first choice players. A confident Indian team landed in Sydney knowing that Rohit Sharma will be available to open the batting along with Gill in the 3rd Test. The Sydney Test began with Jasprit Bumrah leading the attack. While Bumrah is extremely talented and has been the spearhead for India in all formats, we need to remember that he has just played 16 Tests himself. He had Mohammad Siraj who had made his debut in Melbourne and Navdeep Saini making his debut as his bowling partners. The Test was remarkable for more than one reason. While the Indian team did pull out one of the most brilliant and resilient batting performances in recent times they also lost Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah and Hanuma Vihari in the process.

Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul who would have been the next choice of players to make the XI got themselves injured in the nets. While Agarwal awaits scan reports, KL Rahul is probably sipping a cup of team at home watching the game on TV. The Indian team has been hit with unprecedented bout of injuries which was least expected at the start of the series but the one heartening thing though is the fight shown by the players. The credit should be given to the team management on the tour and the unassuming yet strong leadership of Ajinkya Rahane. This series will be memorable for more than one reason but the nothing can be bigger than the courage the team has shown despite adversities.

The Indian team might struggle to put together a good solid playing XI for their toughest game of the series but again you wouldn’t bet against them giving a tough time to the Aussies. The Australia team at full strength at home has struggled to dominate a injury hit Indian team at home. This shows the bench strength of the Indian side and also the mental strength of the team to keep fighting no matter what the situation is.

The Indian team may not be able to put together a strong XI for the final Test but the Aussies will know that this touring team surely has one last fight left in them to make it hard for the hosts. With the Border-Gavaskar trophy on the line the hosts are under more pressure than the tourists who have nothing to lose going into the final Test.

Wicket-Keeping is a crucial component in a Test team. There is a reason why teams don’t compromise on quality of keeping in Tests as opposed to the shorter formats. While all Test teams have decent to good wicket-Keeping batsmen, India have struggled to find one since the retirement of the legendary MS Dhoni.

The Test keeping spot for India has been quite a game of musical chairs between Wriddhiman Saha amd Rishabh Pant. While Saha is the better keeper of the two his batting has been less than inspiring and hasn’t been of Test quality. Gone are the days when Test teams select a wicket keeper for just their good glove work. Almost every Test side in the world now has a wicket keeper who can bat really well. For India it has been a dilemma at least in the Test arena as while Rishabh Pant is an exciting bat his keeping against especially spin is lot left to be desired.

Pant has already dropped 4 chances in the Test and a half he has kept wickets in the ongoing series and things haven’t changed much since the last time he was dropped. Saha on the the other hand is known for his excellent glove work but again age isn’t on his side and his batting has dipped to a level of not being of international standard. The Indian team though over the last 5 years since the retirement of MS Dhoni from this format haven’t tried any other options which makes it very difficult to come up with a replacement immediately.

The Indian management and the selection committee need to dig deeper into the domestic system to bring out a good wicket-keeping batter for Tests. Indian domestic system has 30+ FC teams and it is hard to believe that they cannot find one wicket-keeper who can keep better than Pant and can score runs as well. While Pant is a good batter his glove work needs lots of work and international cricket isn’t the place to learn your trade. Parthiv Patel another youngster who had a brilliant Test series down under in 2003/04 was dropped because of his poor keeping which cost India a series win. Rishabh Pant despite his mouthwatering stroke play needs to spend more time in domestic cricket and work with coaches to improve his glove work if he wants to represent India has a Test wicket keeper.

The problem for India is that even when we look at the IPL squads except for Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan there aren’t many promising young keepers in any of the franchises. Most teams have an overseas wicket-keeper which isn’t helping much with unearthing talent for Indian team. While I am not suggesting we pick a Test wicket keeper based on IPL performance, we at least would have some idea about their skills with the glove in a high pressure tournament.

Right now in the ongoing series India do not have many options but in the future though the selectors need to think about giving opportunities to other young keepers in the domestic system. India will soon be playing at home where keeping against Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja will be crucial and they cannot have Rishabh Pant in the current form to be doing that. Going back to Saha will be a step back as well. If India wants to be a force in Test cricket they need a keeper who makes less mistakes and is reliable behind the wicket and at the moment Rishabh Pant is not that.

We are in the final week of the round robin stage of IPL2020 and the playoff spots are still up for grabs. Mumbai Indians with 16 points are almost in but again they would feel safe with another win under their belt. The fantastic thing about this season is that all the teams except for Chennai Super Kings have an outside chance of making the playoffs. Kings XI Punjab who looked like being down and out after first 7 games have made an incredible comeback winning 5 games on the bounce to become one of the top contenders for the playoff spot. Kolkata Knight Riders have had a mixed tournament. They surely haven’t been consistent but again they have done enough to keep themselves in the race.

Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals though have been hanging by a thread and possibly have an outside chance of making it if they win both their games and other results go their way. The two top teams of this years IPL Royal Challenges Bangalore and Delhi Capitals though have seen their season take turn for the worse in the latter part of the tournament. DC who have been brilliant in this years tournament have had very poor last few games. They have not only been losing but the losses have been heavy as well. Their 88 run loss to SRH has given the latter a lot of hope but has dented DC’s NRR pretty badly. RCB who have been very consistent in this years IPL have now lost two games in a row making their qualification path slightly more complicated.

This season has been extremely competitive and the most dangerous team in the coming days is going to be CSK. The men in yellow have nothing to lose and they would want to end the season on a high. The next few days is going to be crucial for all the sides in the competition. While the top 3 sides want to finally confirm their playoff spots, the rest of the 4 are battling to topple one of them into the playoffs as well.

DC and RCB have been brilliant this season but their recent reversal in results would have surely caused some jitters in their camp. Both these teams have been in these situations in the past an they surely would want to avoid that from happening again this season. RR and SRH who at max can reach 14 points would not only want to win their remaining games but would also want to improve their NRR as there is bound to be tie at number 4 in the table.

This years IPL in the UAE has been exciting and close and the final week is no different. With as many as 7 teams in the running for 4 spots, the tournament has been one of the best in history of IPL. All the teams would want to make one last push towards the playoff spots and it will be interesting to see who gets there.

Every time an Indian national squad is announced there is always controversy. Fans and experts alike question selections, express disappointment over someone missing out and there is conspiracy theories always floating around. The three squads announced for the Australian tour wasn’t immune to that either. But again the T20I squad garnered the most criticism. Lets look at the T20 squad and analyse the “Controversial”
picks in more detail.

Team India T20I squad: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (vice-captain and wicket-keeper), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Varun Chakravarthy

The T20I squad garnered the most criticism and critique from the fans and experts alike. The biggest controversy or mystery is the omission of Rohit Sharma. Rohit has been absent from the Mumbai Indians playing XI for the past 3 games and also I am sure BCCI would have consulted the franchise medical staff before making the call. There is no way BCCI would omit their star limited overs player with hearsay or half baked information. There is a reason why Rohit hasn’t been picked for the tour. The fact that MI posted on social media about Rohit practicing after squad announcement is highly unprofessional as despite that he did not partake in an important clash against RCB last night. Considering there isn’t much time between the end of IPL and the beginning of the Australian tour, I feel the call was right.

The next controversy was with the omission of Rishabh Pant from the T20I side. I am a big fan of Rishabh but again I need to be objective about a player. Yes he is brilliant and yes he is very talented but lets look at his numbers just to stay little fair on the players picked. Pant has played 28 T20Is for India and has an average of 20 at a SR of 121. Not earth shattering numbers by any means. His IPL season this year so far has been mixed bag. He hasn’t been his belligerent best and has shown lack of form over the last year or so. Sanju Samson got a lot of criticism from experts for his lack of good FC scores but again we are talking about T20 games. Yes Sanju himself isn’t the most consistent or reliable but when Pant was given 28 games to prove himself, I feel we can at least give Samson 3 more games to show his mettle.

The other contentious spot in the squad was the selection of Varun Chakravarthy. Yes Varun is a reasonably unknown commodity and not many people rate him as a spinner. He has had a great season so far for KKR but again the argument is that there are better spinners available than Varun in India. Fair enough, the only other player who I thought could have been picked is Kuldeep Yadav as he has brilliant T20 numbers but again his bowling has been on the decline in LO formats over the last 18 months. Yes there is Ravi Bishnoi and Rahul Chahar but again I don’t see selection of a young spinner is that bad as it is made to be. It does seem like the selectors have picked him based on his IPL2020 performance but again that’s fine as both spinners I mentioned above is a future star and will be picked soon in the Indian XI. Yes Varun might not be the best spinner in India but again his selection isn’t as bad as it is made out to be. Krunal Pandya and Axar Patel compete directly with Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar. They both are bowling all-rounders and Varun has been picked as a specialist bowler. Sundar and Jadeja have been very good in shorter formats and their bowling this IPL has been brilliant as well. Jadeja especially has been batting brilliantly for CSK. So I don’t see any controversy in their selection.

The one player who even I though should have been in the T20I squad is Suryakumar Yadav. He has been brilliant in IPL for years and it is strange that he does not get picked for the national side. He once again proved last night how amazing he is in this format and I hope that the selectors give him a chance soon in both the LO format. He is a deserving player and should have been part of this squad to Australia.

This is just a 16 member squad and not everyone can get into the XI. There have been few people preferred over the other and while we can argue the merit of others who haven’t been picked, we cannot deny the talent of the people who are in the squad. The rest of the squad is on the expected lines except for the return of Shikhar Dhawan at the top and the addition of Mayank Agarwal in T20 after his brilliant season for KXIP this year so far.

Overall I feel that even though the T20I squad hasn’t impressed everyone, the selectors haven’t done a horrible job as it is made out to be. They have picked the best available players on merit and I don’t see this as a disaster. Everyone might feel someone someone else would have been a better choice in the squad but again that would be in the hindsight.

The T20I and Test squads were announced by BCCI yesterday and while majority of the personnel were as expected there are some interesting selections in both formats. The biggest controversy though is the absence of Rohit Sharma. Rohit who has been missing in the last few games for Mumbai Indians has been left out sparking some speculation regarding the seriousness of his injury. MI management posting that Rohit is back in the nets and is getting ready to play the rest of the games has created some confusion regarding the the star batsman’s current condition.

BCCI though have mentioned that they will monitor his status and will take a call regarding his inclusion. The rest of the squad though had some interesting choices. Varun Chakravarthy who has had a brilliant IPL for KKR has been chosen as the spinner in the T20I squad in place of Kuldeep Yadav. Kuldeep hasn’t been at his best in shorter format for over a year now and him not getting enough chances for his franchise also might have played a part. The T20 squad already has Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar. Hardik Pandya returns to the Indian squad after missing in action due to injury for a while. The rest of the pace attack for the shorter format remains on the expected lines with Navdeep Saini retaining his spot.

Mayank Agarwal gets a go in the T20 team after a stellar IPL2020 and Sanju Samson gets another chance ahead of Rishabh Pant as the lone wicketkeeper in the squad. While Rohit Sharma’s absence does leave a huge void in the squad Shikhar Dhawan returning to the top gives the team the much needed experience in the batting department. BCCI have gone with the performers from the ongoing IPL but again it will be interesting to see how they will perform in a tough Australian tour.

T20I Squad to Australia: Virat Kohli (C), Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (VC & WK), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Varun Chakravarthy

The ODI squad though is very similar to the T20 one. The biggest surprise though is KL Rahul being the lone wicket-keeper in the squad. Shubman Gill is back in the ODI squad and Mayank Agarwal retains his spot in the team. Prithvi Shaw who was part of the Indian ODI squad to New Zealand does not find a place this time and Kuldeep Yadav returns after being dropped from the T20 team. Shardul Thakur is back in the ODI team and this series also marks the return of Hardik Pandya in all three formats. Ravindra Jadeja retains his all-rounder spot and Yuzvendra Chahal is the other spinner in the ODI team. In the absence of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul doubles up as the deputy to Virat Kohli in the shorter formats on the tour to Australia.

India’s ODI squad to Australia:Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul (vice-captain & wicket-keeper), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Mayank Agarwal, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur

The Test team though has very less surprises. Rohit Sharma once again is absent from the squad which means that KL Rahul makes a come back as an opener. There is Pritvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal as well who mostly will be the first choice openers at the start. Shubman Gill also has been retained in the squad to provide another opening option. The spin department has the regular 3 spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav. Ishant Sharma’s injury means Mohammad Siraj gets another opportunity in the Test team and Navdeep Saini retains his spot in the squad.

Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah round of a varied and good pace attack. India for sure will miss Ishant Sharma as he has been India’s best bowler over the last couple of years and has helped maintain pressure from one end consistently. Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane retain their middle order spots along with Hanuma Vihari who might play based on the team composition. Hardik Pandya also makes a return as a pace bowling all-rounder after missing in action due to injury.

While there are some controversial selections in the T20 and ODI squads the Test team except for the absence of Rohit Sharma probably is the best they could have done. Mohammad Siraj who has been one of the best domestic bowlers for India over the last few years gets another deserved chance and I hope he gets to play in the XI. The Australian series is scheduled immediately after the IPL and the Indian team will be short of practice in the longer format. It will be interesting how the team cope with this new normal and against a team which will be very tough to beat at home.

Test Squad for Australia: Virat Kohli (c), Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Mohd. Siraj

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