My Thoughts

Archive for the ‘ODI’ Category

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.

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.

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 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.

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

Just about a year or so ago, Jasprit Bumrah was bowling like a dream in all formats of the game. The thing which has always been unique about Bumrah is his control in all formats and the way he adapts to different formats easily unlike few other bowlers around the world. He had a brilliant tour to South Africa followed by another brilliant one in England and Australia. All this culminated into that dream series against West Indies where he absolutely demolished the hosts in the 2 Tests he played. He was swinging the ball both ways and caught the host batters napping in both the Tests.

Right after the series the stress fracture happened. The fracture was minor and luckily did not involve surgery. He had a break for few months and was back for the series against Australia in January of 2020. Bumrah struggled in that series for rhythm. He not only was expensive but was also unable to take wickets. While that series may be attributed to him being rusty for missing in action for few months the following series in New Zealand followed similar pattern.

He struggled in the first couple of T20Is but did pull it back with some good spells later in the series. The following ODI series was disastrous for India and Bumrah as the latter struggled for control and wickets once again. Even in the Test series which followed Bumrah’s lack of wickets was one of the reasons India struggled against New Zealand batting. Bumrah finished with 6 wickets at an average of 31 which was below par for his standards. Even though there hasn’t been much cricket played this year due to COVID19, it has been probably the worst year for Bumrah in terms of returns.

In 6 ODIs he played this year he averaged 287 with just 1 wicket. In T20Is he did well with 8 wickets at 20 but in Tests he took 6 wickets in 4 inning for 32. While IPL isn’t the standard we normally would want to measure a player, Bumrah has been a stalwart in this tournament and his start to the season further proves that he is still struggling for rhythm. He has gone for runs in all games he has played and has struggled to bowl yorkers like he used to do before the injury.

His lengths has been all over the place and the way he fed short deliveries to AB De Villiers to be hit for sixes is something you don’t see with Bumrah ever. India tour Australia later this year and Bumrah is a crucial bowler for for the former if they want to repeat their 2018 success. The only reason India won in 2018 was because of the sustained pressure created by the pace bowlers. Bumrah was brilliant in that series bowling at high pace and accuracy. This year Australia will be stronger with the return of Steven Smith and David Warner and the Indian pace attack will have their task cut out.

Ishant Sharma has just returned from an injury and Jasprit Bumrah is still searching for his rhythm. Mohammad Shami has been the only Indian pacer who has looked in fine form in this IPL. Jasprit Bumrah is once in a generation talent and is a bowler who will be winning India lots of games in the future but again the team management should make sure he is in the right headspace. He is being captained by Rohit Sharma and I hope he and MI camp are doing everything to get his confidence back. As an Indian fan I will be watching all the games MI play just to see Bumrah’s bowling as I know that his form is crucial for India in the Test championship and also for the T20 WC next year.


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