My Thoughts

Archive for the ‘Twenty20’ Category

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chennai Super Kings haven’t had the greatest of seasons so far. With just 3 wins from 9 games their chances of getting to the playoffs is thinning with every loss. Their loss against Delhi Capitals over the weekend was a must win game to keep their confidence going but again despite putting up a good total their bowling and fielding let that chance slip.

While Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab kept their hopes alive with a moral boosting win, they also put a lot of pressure on CSK and Rajasthan Royals. CSK not only lost the game against Delhi Capitals, they also lost their star all-rounder Dwayne Bravo to injury. Losing him mid game and having to bowl Ravindra Jadeja in the final over cost them dearly. This would also mean that they would have to change their team combination once again. CSK haven’t been able to field a settled combination so far this season and Bravo’s absence is not going to be easy.

The middle order batting options isn’t something which is abundant in CSK’s arsenal. They only have Kedar Jadhav and Narayan Jagadeesan in their squad to fill that slot. The other decision they need to make is between Josh Hazlewood and Lungi Ngidi. Kedhar Jadhav had a poor IPL and was a regular for CSK in the first few games. He isn’t bowling anymore which means that he needs to play only as a batter in the XI. He really struggled with the bat this season and him not being the fastest mover on the field might weigh heavy in the decision making process. Jagadeesan played only one game for CSK and scored 30 odd, it would be unfair to not give him another chance in the XI.

The other option Dhoni & Co have is playing an extra spinner in Piyush Chawla in place of Bravo which also might be one of the discussion points. The other pickle CSK have is that with Bravo missing they need to plug their death bowling void. Bravo and Shardul Thakur did that for CSK in the last few games and with the former injured they need to decide between Hazlewood and Ngidi for that spot. Ngidi does seem the natural choice but again Hazlewood provides CSK with wickets with the new ball. It will be a tough call for the team management ahead of their all important game against Rajasthan Royals.

Making change to the playing XI is always tough but doing it when you are not particularly performing well as a team is even more difficult. CSK will know that any more slip up would mean that their chances of making it to the final four will almost be over. This is a must win the pressure is enormous on MS Dhoni and Stephen Fleming.

My Playing XI:

Sam Curran, Faf Du Plessis, Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, N Jagadeesan/Piyush Chawla, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Karn Sharma, Lungi Ngidi

The IPL has just reached it’s half way mark and this is when the tournament starts to get interesting. There are always a few teams clubbed together on the points table with very less margin for error. Rajasthan Royals are one such team who are involved in a mid table scrum with few other teams in the tournament. With 3 wins and 5 losses, RR are still very much in the hunt for a spot in the playoffs but again they would need to fix their batting order confusion before it is too late.

RR started the tournament with Yashasvi Jaiswal opening the batting with captain Steven Smith in the absence of Jos Buttler. Once Buttler returned Jaiswal wasn’t picked anymore until later with Steven Smith opening the batting in the first few games. All this while they had a solid experienced opener Robin Uthappa in the XI playing in the middle order. RR have been all over the place with their batting order. They haven’t been able to be consistent with the batting order which means that none of their batters are settled in a particular batting position. Steven Smith himself has moved around quite a bit and so did Sanju Samson.

Ben Stokes who returned to RR mid tournament found himself opening the batting out of nowhere in his very first game. Stokes as well all know is a brilliant middle order bat for England in limited overs format. He has done brilliantly as a finisher for England in all formats and has been brilliant for them in positions 5 and 6. Ben Stokes has so far played 121 LO games and he hasn’t opened one in those number of games. His strongest position has been number 5 for England and it is hard to understand the rationale behind sending him to open the batting by the RR team management.

Rajasthan Royals do have issues with the middle order where they for sure lack experience and Ben Stokes coming in at number 5 would be the ideal scenario for their team. They have young Riyan Parag and Rahul Tewatia batting lower down the order and having Stokes guiding them would mean they would finish more games successfully. Robin Uthappa at number 5 hasn’t been working for RR but again him at the top of the order would give the perfect balance to the batting order. Uthappa has been Indian ODI opener and has opened successfully for KKR for years and it boggles my mind why RR would keep him lower down the order.

Uthappa not only has the shots to score quickly, he can drop anchor and bat through if Buttler gets going as well. This would mean Steven Smith, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Riyan Parag, Rahul Tewatia would make a brilliant middle order for RR. Rajasthan Royals have toyed with that opening spot since the start of the tournament and they haven’t been able to settle on the same yet. Ben Stokes did score 41 in last nights game but again RR did lose the match in the end as they lacked experienced finisher at 5 or 6. Stokes value to RR would surely be in the middle order and not at the top. RR don’t have much room for mistake anymore and they have reached a point in the tournament where every game is almost a must win. They would have to settle their batting order soon and if they do that consistency in results will follow.

Right batting order for RR:

Jos Buttler, Robin Uthappa, Steven Smith, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Riyan Parag, Rahul Tewatia, Shreyas Gopal, Jofra Archer, Jaydev Unadkat, Kartik Tyagi

Chennai Super Kings have had a horrible start to IPL2020 with just 2 wins in 7 games. This is not the first time the men in yellow have found themselves in such a quagmire. They were in similar situation in 2010 as well. That time though they won 5 out of their next 7, reached the playoffs and then eventually beat Mumbai Indians in the finals to win their first IPL title. The biggest difference between then and now is not only the personnel but also the will to pull off such a heist again.

CSK of 2010 was a brilliant team. They had a brilliant opening pair of Matthew Hayden and Murali Vijay. Vijay during the initial seasons was a brilliant player for CSK who scored couple of hundreds for them in the tournament. They also had a firing Suresh Raina who had another 500+ run season. They had Subramaniam Badrinath who scored 350 runs at 32 and held the middle order for the team and the captain himself who was in amazing form.

The bowling attack in 2010 had the brilliant Doug Bollinger who was hard to get away. They also had Muttaih Muralitharan who had a brilliant season with the ball. Ravichandran Ashwin had a breakthrough year for CSK which propelled his ascent to the national team in the same year. All-Rounder Albie Morkel and Shadab Jakati all had brilliant years with the ball. The team was firing after the initial setback and had a captain who was fresh, fit and was motivating to a team which knew how to win.

The CSK team in 2020 isn’t anywhere near the ability the team of 2010 had. First of all there is no Suresh Raina who most often than not ends up scoring 500 runs in a season for CSK. They don’t have a solid middle order which CSK had in the initial seasons of the tournament. They also don’t have a bowling attack which quite as varied and potent as the 2010 attack was. The biggest issue for CSK this season other than the age of the squad is a jaded and tired MS Dhoni. The biggest talisman for CSK over the years has been their captain “Thala” Dhoni. When the season started this year question marks were raised as to how would Dhoni perform after not having played for a long time.

Even though CSK had a dream start to the season beating MI in the first game, when Dhoni pushed himself below everyone in the order, the answer was there for everyone to see. The MS Dhoni we knew would have walked out after Rayudu’s dismissal to finish the game of himself but he sent Jadeja and Sam Curran ahead of him. When he was struggling to bat in the game against SRH it was evident that the man is strategically and physically not in his best shape to guide this team anymore.

The planning before the start of the tournament wasn’t there and CSK did not bid for many young Indian cricketers in the auction last year. With a thin batting which does not have much wiggle room, CSK decided to invest more on the bowling. The strategy which did not make sense even during that time. While Riyan Parag, Devdutt Padikkal and Priyam Garg all are looking good for their respective franchise, CSK haven’t been consistent with Ruturaj Gaikwad in the playing XI. They finally gave a chance to Jagadeesan last game but again strategically playing another wicketkeeper in the XI and making him field in the outfield was poor. Jagadeesan dropped a catch and I don’t blame him as I am not sure how often he has had to do that.

Chennai Super Kings have a great legacy in IPL. They are the only team to reach the playoffs in all the seasons they have been part of. A streak which seems to be coming to an end this season. In all probability this might be MS Dhoni’s last season as a player for CSK and I hope that the team has a little bit gas left in the tank to make one final push. They might not be able to win the title but they would want to end the season with some good performances. CSK still are mathematically in this tournament but the question is whether they have the will to fight once again with their backs to the wall. It is not going to be easy but if there is one team who can fight the odds it is CSK.


My Thoughts

My Tweets

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 367 other followers