My Thoughts

Australia early in the 90’s was going through a transition of sorts. Allan Border, Dean Jones, Geoff Marsh, Craig McDermott, Merv Hughes, Mike Whitney and David Boon were all in their last legs. While rest of the world might be worried losing so many established all together at the same time, Australia weren’t. Australia’s talent in the 90’s is something which the entire world was envious about. They had Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Paul Reiffel, Jason Gillespie, Justin Langer etc were waiting in the wings. They were so strong that they could actually assemble two international quality teams at the same time and still challenge any team in the world.

Australia for a while at home actually played Tri-Series with Australia and Australia A competing with an international team at home where the two home teams ended up playing the finals. Such was the talent Australia possessed at that time. While so much talent is exciting, the way you use the talent at your disposal is important. While Australia were forced to make wholesale changes with the team with the Waugh brothers and Mark Taylor being the anchors, the way Australia used the talent they at that time is something to be marvelled about. They always picked the right people needed and backed the right talent which meant they were at the top for the next 2 decades.

When you have such a vast talent at your disposal, not everyone is going to get a chance to play for the National side. Even for example for Australia bowlers like Damien Fleming, Michael Kasprowicz, Paul Reiffel etc ended up playing way lesser games than they should have but again they filled the team needs when needed during their dominance.

The Indian team right now are in a similar phase like the Australian team of the early 90’s. India are in an enviable position with abundance of talent at their disposal. When you have so many amazing players to choose from the selectors and the team management need to make sure they are doing the right thing and select the right players for the right format. The biggest success of Australia was their cut throat selections. They never shied away from dropping players who were not performing or for selecting players with talent irrespective of their age. For example Matthew Hayden made a comeback at the age of 29 and became one of the best openers for Australia for the next decade. Michael Hussey made his debut at 30 and became one of the best players in the world.

When you have lots of talent to pick from the one thing you need to do is to shut the outside noise and think what will be best for the team. This is something the Indian selectors and the team management have failed to do over the past few years. It is all good having the richest league in the world and having best young players in the world but again if you don’t pick the right candidates in the squad it will amount to nothing. Not every talented player is going to make the national side but again the right people should always play. This is something which the Indian management need to realise. Just because you have lots of players to pick from the team cannot keep changing every series.

The clarity in selection and picking the right combination is what kept Australia on top for 2 decades which I don’t see from the Indian management. The confusion of picking experience versus young talent is what the Indian think tank are going through over the past few years. The reason for India not doing well in world tournaments can be attributed to picking wrong combination for the conditions they were going to play in. India have a great chance to dominate world cricket like Australia did for a long time but they haven’t been able to do so due to the selection blunders. This is not a phase which will last for long like Australia found out over the last decade or so. There will be time when you will struggle to get good talent coming through. There will be a phase when you might find it difficult to find replacements but before that happens you need to make most of the situation.

India right now are right now at the cusp of greatness and with some clarity in selection they can actually achieve that. The last couple of series have shown some promise and the hope is only that it is not a false dawn. This is the year of World Test Championship and the 50 over World Cup. India have a chance to win both and stamp their authority on World Cricket. No other team possesses the kind of talent India does and it will be shame if the team does not make full use of it.

2023 is an important year of all teams as they prepare for the marquee event. Every series and every game is viewed as preparation of the major tournament and to iron out flaws with the team combination. India is no different. In 2022 the biggest criticism the Indian team received was that they tinkered with the team combination too much. The team tried to play too many games and by trying to use their enormous talent pool, they just created too many versions of the same LO team. The result was there to see as India struggled to come up with one proper T20 side and the confusion caused an unbalanced team for the World Cup once again.

This is not the first time India have done something like this, the 2021 T20 WC and the 2019 ODI WC were products of the same confusion which led to confusing team selections in important games. So far in 2023 India seems to have steered clear of such confusions. The selectors and team management seem to be displaying much clearer thinking than the past years and it is showing with some consistent selections in this format. Even though there are a few spots still to be confirmed the skeleton of the team looks much more consistent that in 2019.

India were never going to be challenged against a struggling Sri Lanka team at home but again the focus was as to how the team was going to perform and if they can be ruthless. The answer to that question was provided by a very clinical and ruthless win at Thiruvananthapuram last night. The batting on a pitch which isn’t considered as the best in India was phenomenal and the bowling capped off a perfect day for the home team. The biggest positive for India other than Virat Kohli is the faith shown by the team management on Shubman Gill as the opener. Gill has been brilliant over the last year or so and for sure deserved a chance to partner Rohit Sharma in this format. He showed why ODI is his best format once again by scoring 207 runs in the series with a century and a fifty.

The biggest positive for India in regards to the batting is the form of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. Virat Kohli has been in tremendous white ball form for the past few months and the fact that he is scoring hundreds again should please both the fans and the management. Virat Kohli scoring runs at number 3 is a huge boost for the Indian top order. Rohit Sharma as well has looked in great nick since he made his comeback after injury. He has been aggressive at the top and will be disappointed to not convert those starts into a big one. Rohit seems to have formed a great partnership with Shubman Gill and hope India do not tinker with that combination.

The other big positive for India has been the consistent selection of the bowling attack. Mohammed Siraj has once again proven that he is India’s best LO bowler presently. He swings the new ball and picks wickets in the power play which is what India lacked in white ball formats. Mohammed Shami is a question mark still but he has been decent with the ball. India also will be happy with the performance of Umran Malik, who has bowled with lots of pace and has picked wickets in the middle overs. Hardik Pandya has looked good as well even though he did not pick too many wickets. Kuldeep Yadav making a comeback and picking wickets again is a huge plus for the Indian bowling attack as wickets in the middle overs will be crucial in the world cup.

There are still a few things the Indian team needs to iron out. KL Rahul despite his very good 60 odd not out is still a question mark as he hasn’t been that consistent over the last year or so. The selection of Surya Kumar Yadav is also another thing India needs to address as he is an impact player in white ball formats. Ishan Kishen who scored a double hundred in his last ODI game also needs to be in the picture as he provides a left-hand option at the top of the order. While India do need to try out different combinations in the lead up to the World Cup it is imperative that India decide on their best XI as well. Jasprit Bumrah will return soon and so will Ravindra Jadeja and India would need to pick the right attach for the tournament.

Right now as far as the pace attack goes only Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah are a lock for the WC playing XI. Hardik Pandya will be the pace bowling all-rounder but again India need to pick from a host of pacers for the rest of the spots. Mohammed Shami has been patchy and his fitness is a huge issue. Arshdeep Singh provides India with a left-arm variation but again he hasn’t played too may ODIs. Umran Malik has been brilliant with his express pace and needs to be persisted with. So quite a few headaches for the Indian team management. The spin combination also needs to be finalised with 3 finger-spinners probably vying for two spots in the squad. Washington Sundar & Axar Patel are probably fighting for one spot in the squad as Ravindra Jadeja when fit will walk into the playing XI. Chahal & Kuldeep will mostly be the two wrist spinners as India haven’t tried too many others in recent times.

India will need to avoid the mistakes of their previous selection debacles and make sure that right people are selected in the WC squad. This series for sure has provided India will a great insight as to who those players might be but again the team management should make sure that there isn’t too much of chopping and changing of the core players to maintain the consistency ahead of the tournament.

Interviews are dime a dozen these days on YouTube but again only a few of them are actually watchable. There are so many channels these days on YouTube and on TV that there is some interview either for movie promotions or just a chat with an actor almost everyday. While there are lots of interviews there aren’t many with substance. The interviews mostly at least in Tamizh are boring, unimaginative and sometimes downright embarrassing.

Previously there were a handful of Satellite channels but now there are so many of them that there is always a competition to put up a click bait headline go get views for the video. Most of the interviewers do no homework on the actors career and come up with mundane questions for which we get robotic responses from the actors. Not all interviewers are bad, some of them are brilliant like Baradwaj Rangan, Abishek and Rukshanth to name a few but again there aren’t many.

Here are some of the issues I have about especially Tamizh interviews (I don’t watch other language interviews much to form an opinion on them. Just a disclaimer before someone attacks me)

Too much hero worship:

Most of the times the conversations with famous stars become a ego massaging exercise more than an actual interview. Most of the anchors go overboard with praises which sometimes even make the actors uncomfortable. The interview does not offer anything to the audience who watch it other than to give satisfaction to the fanboys of the stars. Most of the times I do not even watch after the interview after the first few questions as I know how it is going to go.

No research or homework done

Most of the interviews have repetitive questions and we get standard answers from the stars. There is no research or homework done about the movie the actor is promoting or about the career to actually ask meaningful questions. The stars mostly go through the motions and most of these interviews turn into boring one with the anchor trying to fish for some click bait title for the video on YouTube.

Female actors completely ignored in interviews with the movie crew

When we have the movie crew come in to promote a film, the fixation of the anchor on the male star of the film is jarring. The female actors are ignored completely to a point where we can actually see them bored out of their wits. This not only happens with newcomers but also with established actors. The Tamizh anchors are notorious in doing this if you follow movie crew interviews closely. Suddenly they will remember that there is a female actor and resort to some mundane questions like “How did they get a chance to act in this project?” and then, wait for it as this is a brilliant question, “How was it to act with the hero of the film”, once these questions are answered, they will be back to the male stars. This becomes worse for female actors who cannot speak the language. It is not their fault that they cannot speak the language. The fact of the matter is that most of the anchors just don’t bother to do any homework on the female actors careers to actually ask any meaningful questions.

Female actors asked about male stars in their interviews:

This is the worst of all. Even when female stars/actors are interviewed the questions to them will be to share their experiences acting with multiple male superstars. The if they run out of questions about male superstars, they will ask the female actors when they are getting married or what kind of life partner they are looking for etc. These interviews are the most cringe of all. You just cannot sit through it. It is almost like these actors have done nothing in their careers to have a conversation about.

Tamizh anchors need to learn how an interesting interview can be conducted. May be watch videos of a Baradwaj Rangan or Abishek or even someone like Rukhshanth whose recent interviews with couple of female stars were brilliant and fun to watch. The anchors that I mentioned above don’t ask monotonous questions and actually come with proper research about the actors career to ask questions which keeps the celebrity as well as the fans interested.

Yeah praising stars and getting praise out of others about a star for a click bait title might please some fanboys but again that is not all there is for an interview. YouTube channels themselves need to strive hard to give better content to the audience. These days I don’t watch any interviews as they are boring. An actor from a big film will be interviewed but the entire conversation will be about the star in the film and not about the actor who is being interviewed. This needs to change in Tamizh media and channels need to realise that just the ability to talk does not make someone a good anchor.

The win against Afghanistan in the final game and Virat Kohli’s hundred after 3 years should not mask what a disastrous Asia Cup campaign this was for the Indian T20 team. India entered into the tournament as clear favorites with Pakistan being their competition but their performances were inconsistent to put it politely. The biggest issue for India was the lack of clarity in selection of the playing XI. While the team composition for the first 2 games looked right, some injuries and management succumbing to pressures of including some players in the XI caused some confusion with the playing combination.

The biggest issue with the previous leadership was the same that they lacked clarity with the team selection. While most often the top 3 remained same the rest of the batting order constantly kept changing which meant that India went into major tournaments without a settled batting order. The current leadership group seem to be following the same patter ahead of an important tournament. India is the number 1 T20 team in the world by a comfortable margin but again you wouldn’t be able to guess that by their performance in the Asia Cup.

The batting order was muddled. While the top 3 were okay, the rest of the batting kept changing. The first 2 games had the 2 all-rounders in the middle which gave the captain 6 bowling options, which wasn’t the case in the second stage of the tournament. India had to bowl just the 5 bowlers as it seemed like the captain did not have confidence in the bowling of Deepak Hooda. One has to question the selection of Hooda in the XI if he wasn’t going to bowl. India did have the option of Axar Patel in the absence of Jadeja which the management for some reason failed to make use of. For example Dinesh Karthik was chosen in the squad for his finishing abilities but again he wasn’t there for the two crucial super 4 games where a good finish might have given India those extra 10-15 runs.

The World T20 is just over a month away and India as usual are struggling to figure out what their ideal combination for the tournament would be. This is exactly what happened in the 2019 WC and the 2021 T20 WC last year. The team keeps experimenting till the last minute and manage to include players who haven’t played much in the squad leading up to an imbalanced playing XI in crucial games. I agree that the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel left a big hole in the bowling line up but again there were no excuses in the batting.

If India want to seriously win a world tournament they need to identify and stick to a playing XI for at least a few games to let them settle. India have announced their T20 WC squad and except for the return of Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel, there isn’t many surprises in the 15. The good thing is that India have picked the same squad for the series against Australia and South Africa which gives them ample opportunities to figure out their right playing combination for the World Cup. I understand that the playing conditions are completely different but again India for sure need to try and play the best team composition which they think will work irrespective of the surface they play on. If they continue to experiment too much leading up to the WC, they might end up with an unbalanced playing XI in the World Cup which might come back to haunt them in crucial games.

World T20 Squad:

Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul (vc), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant (wk), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Hardik Pandya, R. Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh.

Standby Players: Mohammed Shami, Shreyas Iyer, Ravi Bishnoi, Deepak Chahar

The year 2022 has been really poor for Bollywood as far as box office successes go. Very few films have actually done well and majority of the big star films have tanked badly this year. Majority of the media and critics have attributed this lack of success to the “Boycott Bollywood” trend which is being run by a few on social media. While this may have a miniscule impact on the business of a film but blaming everything on it is just living in denial. It is an easy way out isn’t it? Blame it on some unknown people on Social media for your failures and then continue to repeat the same mistakes. It has not been all doom and gloom for Bollywood though, they have had their successes through “Kashmir Files”, “Gangubai Kathiawadi” and “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2”. If social media could influence people to boycott films, the above movies wouldn’t have been successful. Before people brand me as a hater, let me tell you that I grew up in Delhi and even though I am a Thamizhan, I grew up watching Hindi films more than Tamizh. Sure over the past decade or so that has changed as the content from Hindi does not excite me anymore except for few films here and there.

Here is my take though as to what is causing these failures.

Arrogance of the Bollywood Actors:

The actors in the Hindi film industry have always come across as arrogant and as someone who don’t give too much importance to their fans who support them unconditionally. Recently someone said that star power alone cannot bring audience to the theatres anymore in Bollywood, which is absolutely true. If the movies which released this year had released pre-pandemic, most of them would have been huge successes but again things have changed a lot recently. The biggest difference between the Southern stars and Bollywood is their relatability and humbleness. Something which is completely absent in majority of the current Bollywood stars. For example a statement like what Arjun Kapoor gave in his recent interview would never come out of any South Indian actor, star or not. The accessibility to more South Indian stars and their movies during the pandemic has caused this transformation in the Hindi audience which seems new to the stars Bollywood. An entire fraternity who has taken the audience for granted have now realised how important they are and why they should take them seriously. This is one of the major reasons why the Hindi films aren’t pulling in the crowd just by star power. This is the time to change and probably a change in attitude is warranted for the entire Hindi industry who has so far neglected their core audience and had started to think they are moving west with their content.

Remakes and lack of good content:

The second and most important reason for audience not coming to theatres is that most of the movies which has come out in theatres from Bollywood has been either remakes of famous South Indian movies or have been outdated content. Over the past 2 years Hindi audience have watched a lot of South Indian content on OTT and on YouTube and when you bring the same movies with just Hindi actors to theatres, the fans would obviously reject the same. When they see great content from other Industries in the country, the audience want something different from Hindi cinema as well which so far hasn’t happened this year. This is the major reason for audience to not show up in theatres as the non-remakes which have come to theatres this year have been outdated stories which the audience have seen multiple times in the past. When Bollywood starts making good content and if the word of mouth is good, I am sure the fans would rush to the theatres, “Boycott Trend” or not.

Rooted stories relatable to Indian Audience

Long time ago, Bollywood had stopped making content for Indian audience. The content made in Hindi cinema had started to cater to western sensibilities about 20 years ago. I agree that there are few directors like Anand L Rai and Anurag Kashyap who make rooted content but those are very limited. A regular movie goer will never relate to majority of movies made in Hindi cinema. The audience were accepting what was being served by Hindi cinema until couple of years ago have learnt now that you can make entertaining films while staying rooted to your region and culture. This is where South Indian cinema has always done well. The movies are always rooted in the local culture of the state which makes it easier for the audience to connect. Most of the Hindi films aren’t relatable to the audience which has made them distant from the content, no matter how good it might be

There is also some section of the audience who feel Bollywood spreads Hindu phobia which may be valid in some cases but that isn’t the major reason for the movies not doing well.

Bollywood has two of their biggest releases in the coming months. Brahmastra releasing today and Vikram Vedha releasing at the end of this month. Both these movies boast of great content and performances. The success of these two movies will further emphasize that good content will always succeed and audience will always want to watch such cinema.

The creators in Bollywood had gone into this comfort zone of not trying anything and just sticking to what they have been doing for years while all the other industries have moved ahead. They also had formed this arrogance and not caring about the viewers over the years and this year has been a reminder that audience is everything. If you disrespect them or take them for granted they will not respect or support you back. I hope this year has been that lesson for Bollywood and they will make some changes for good. Also they need to understand that just because Brahmastra or Vikram Vedha succeed doesn’t mean that they are off the hook and keep releasing substandard content. The audience will still reject that irrespective of who is starring in it.

The biggest problem we have had over the past few years with the Indian cricket team has been arriving at the right balance for a LOI XI. While in Test cricket there isn’t much room for experimentation in ODIs due to the enormous talent pool at their disposal India started to play around with their combination so much that they end up playing an unbalanced XI at most times.

In the ongoing Asia Cup if we look at the first 2 games, the balance was perfect. The two all-rounders at 6 & 7 followed by 4 bowlers was the ideal combination for a T20 team. India had 6 genuine bowling options in the first 2 games which helped India to juggle the bowlers better. When Jadeja was injured after the Hong Kong game, the Indian team broke that combination in their first Super 4 game against Pakistan which led to an unbalanced XI.

India had finally given into the wish list which the fans and experts have been calling for since the start of the tournament. The inclusion of Rishabh Pant is one such wish list which wasn’t needed in the scheme of things. Dinesh Karthik who played the first 2 games of the tournament hadn’t done anything wrong to be dropped for the game against Pakistan. Also the inclusion of Deepak Hooda did not make sense as well as India already had a like for like replacement for Jadeja with Axar Patel.

While Hooda was selected in the XI as a batter who could give you couple of overs, the fact that Rohit never used him with the ball is perplexing. This would only lead us to believe that Rohit Sharma or the team management do not have much confidence in the bowling abilities of Deepak Hooda. We saw that both Hardik Pandya & Yuzvendra Chahal had an off day and still they completed their full quota going for 11 an over. An over or 2 by the 6th bowler could have helped Rohit if he had the services of someone like Axar Patel at his disposal. This is what happens when you start heeding to chatter around you instead of selecting a team which gives the best balance for the XI.

If India wanted to play Rishabh Pant, he should have replaced Karthik but Hooda does not make into the XI as it affected the balance which the team had for the first 2 games. If Axar Patel was available and fit, he should have been in the XI in the place of Ravindra Jadeja. Axar is a genuine bowler, who most often than not gives you miserly overs in the middle and also picks up wickets. The lack of conviction in picking up the ideal LO XI has come back to haunt India. To be frank except for couple of forced changes, India did not have to make any more changes to the XI but they did it anyways.

The T20 WC is just over a month away and neither the fans nor the management know what India’s ideal XI is. Winning the Asia Cup is important but more than that India need to decide what batting ideal for the T20 team leading up to the marquee tournament. The biggest problem India had in 2021 WC in UAE was that the team was all over the place and there was no consistency in selection. India came into the Asia cup with some strange selections where players who played most games over the last 18 months were overlooked and now with this ridiculous meddling with the playing XI they are digging themselves into a bigger hole.

India take on Sri Lanka today for an important clash which will decide whether they can make it to the finals or not. I hope that some sense prevails and they go back to the combination they had for the first 2 games. Having a lot of talent is one thing but playing the right combination is what wins you tournaments.

I know that India are known to back a bowler when they think that they see some potential. The Indian team management has backed Avesh Khan an lot over the last 18 months. Avesh has played 15 T20Is during this time and has mostly looked underwhelming. He did have couple of good performances over the last few months but mostly he has failed to provide the control which India needs from their third pacer in the XI. When we look at the last 18 months Avesh Khan has played 4th most number of games for India just behind, B Kumar, H Patel and H Pandya. His 15 games have only produced 13 wickets at an average of 32 and an economy rate of 9.1.

If you look in T20 terms, 15 games is quite a high number and none of the other bowlers except for the 3 others I mentioned above have played that many games. Even in the IPL where Avesh Khan had a decent time there were others who did better than him who weren’t considered for the National side. Mohammed Shami played just 5 T20Is over the past 18 months and had better average and economy rate than Avesh but was still not considered for the Asia Cup.

When we look at the IPL 2022, there were some great Indian bowling performances. The one bowler who comes to mind immediately is Moshin Khan. Moshin played 9 games this season and took 14 wickets but what was outstanding about his performance was his economy rate of 5.96. It is incredible for a fast bowler to bowl quick and also have a low economy rate as well. It would have been great to see him bowl for India at least against Ireland and Zimbabwe to see how good he can be at the international level. Umran Malik also impressed everyone with his pace. That x-factor is what which got him into the Indian XI quicker than expected. Agreed that his first 3 games did not go well but again India need to make sure such a talent is not ignored. He had a great IPL where he picked up 22 wickets at 14.

The other bowler who India completely ignored was Umesh Yadav who also had a great IPL 2022. His economy rate was just over 7 and he picked up 16 wickets in the tournament. Umesh Yadav decided to play county cricket this year and did exceedingly well with the ball in the Royal London Cup. Agreed that Mohammed Shami hasn’t had the best of times in this format for India but again he has lots of experience in white ball cricket and has been a constant performer in IPL. He once again had a good IPL season this time around picking 20 wickets at an economy rate of 8. Khaleel Ahmed who has represented India in the past in limited overs format also had a great IPL with better stats than Avesh Khan. Now the question to be asked is whether picking Avesh Khan was a wise decision for the Asia Cup. India haven’t picked any other pacer in their main squad which means that they cannot swap him over with a replacement through the reminder of the tournament.

The signs were there through this year. I understand that Avesh Khan looks a great prospect. He can bowl quick, when he does well he picks up wickets but again those performances are rare and he most often than not gets taken for lots of runs. There is a pattern when we look at his overall stats. He played 3 ODIs for India and went for 7.74 runs in them. His List A economy rate is 5.64 and his overall T20 economy rate is 8.14. So this begs the question what was the rationale in picking him as the sole third seamer for a competition like Asia Cup?

India have moved on to the super 4 stage of the competition and it will be interesting to see if they continue to play Avesh Khan in those games as well. With Hardik Pandya back to bowling at full tilt there probably is a chance of playing Ravi Bishnoi or Ravichandran Ashwin as the third spinner in the XI instead of Avesh Khan. I feel that his performance against Hong Kong should make the management think whether they should continue to pick him in the XI for the rest of the tournament. The team management and the selectors need to realise that we are not in the 90’s where there was a dearth of fast bowlers in the country. India now boasts of great talent at the domestic level which hasn’t been properly explored. There are great bowling options available for India if they want to try them out and give them a chance. India did pick Arshdeep Singh who comparatively had a very poor IPL 2022 but again he has shown that he has the skills to succeed at this level with proper guidance.

India still has some time before the World T20 and I hope that some sense prevails and right backup pacers are picked. Australia is a tough place to bowl fast and India would need bowlers who can hit the deck and keep runs in check as well. Avesh in his limited time with the Indian team has shown that he cannot consistently provide that control. I am not saying that we should discard Avesh Khan permanently but again at this moment he isn’t the right choice for India in this format.

India, over the past 2 years have been experimenting a lot with their limited overs side. This may be attributed to the amount of cricket the Indian players play in a year. The combination of IPL and the busy international calendar means that India are forced to rotate players to prevent burnout. What this also does is that many high performing players from IPL and domestic cricket get to experience International cricket and prove their worth. This also means that when selecting a team for a tournament like World T20, the selectors and team management are presented with way too many options which might make the process more tricky.

Since January 2021, India have played 37 T20Is, a number which isn’t huge but again we are taking that timeline as that provides as with recent performers. India are playing in UAE before flying out to Australia for the World T20 which means that the squad picked for the former would mostly be the one which is selected for the latter as well. The spin bowling combination is something which is always up to debate when a squad is picked. Last year for the T20 WC which happened in UAE, India went with the mystery of Varun Chakravarthy along with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja as their three spinners. While Varun started the tournament as the lead spinner, he was dropped for the 3rd game after initial 2 losses but did play one more game against Scotland where he ended up wicketless. Varun hasn’t played much since then and is nowhere in consideration for a spot in the India team at the moment.

Over the past 18 months the spinner who has played most games for India is Yuzvendra Chahal. He has played 17 games and has an average of 21 with an economy rate of 7.49. He has been the main spinner for India over that time and is rightfully in the squad for the Asia cup. Ravi Bishnoi though is a surprise selection this time. Even though everyone knows the talent Bishnoi possesses he has been picked ahead of Axar Patel who has played the second most number of games over the last 18 months. Bishnoi himself has played 9 games over this time at a very good average of 16.5 and an economy rate of 7.15. Also Bishnoi bowls a different style of Leg Spin to Chahal and does provide India with an X-Factor in the middle overs.

The other surprising selection for sure is of Ravichandran Ashwin. Ashwin has a fine record in T20Is over the same period but including the 3 games he played in the WT20 last year, he has only featured in 8 of the 37 games India have played since January 2021. While the team management have been adamant about Ashwin being in the plans for T20 WC, he did not feature in too many games over the past few months. He though has the best economy rate among the 4 spinners picked which is an incredible 5.78.

The fourth spinner though is Ravindra Jadeja but again he will feature in the team as an all-rounder. While Jadeja and Axar Patel have similar bowling record over this period, the batting is the reason Jadeja gets the edge. Since the beginning of 2021 Jadeja averages 51 with the bat at a SR of 141, which is brilliant for a lower middle order all-rounder. The only bowler who might feel a little hard done is Kuldeep Yadav. Kuldeep has only played 4 games over the last 18 months for India and while he hasn’t done badly, his lack of games tells us that he was never in consideration.

The biggest problem for India is that there aren’t any spinners who are standing out in recent times. The fact that Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are still relavent in T20 format is because of the dearth of good spinners in domestic cricket . Ravi Bishnoi is the only spinner who comes to mind and he is part of the India squad. To be frank the selectors have picked the only options they have available for the Asia Cup and they cannot be blamed for their choices.

While the spinners picked have been based on statistics and performances it will be interesting to see who will actually play in the XI. The fact that Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja are a must as all-rounders , it leaves room for only one spinner in the XI and Yuzvendra Chahal for sure is going to occupy that spot. Deepak Hooda who might play in the middle order will double up as the third spin option. The spinners for the World T20 for sure will be picked from this bunch and considering there are no games before the marquee tournament after Asia Cup, majority of the same group might be travelling to Australia as well.

The squad for the World Cup though might still see some changes. Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav might still be in consideration for a spot. Kuldeep especially as he bowled well in Zimbabwe and he does bring the necessary variation to the spin attack. The problem though is that the T20 World Cup is in Australia which means that India might not pick too many spinners in the squad.

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.

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