My Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘Axar Patel

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 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.

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.

Virat Kohli has been vocal about the 5 bowler strategy since he took over the test captaincy in Australia. India tried Harbhajan as the 5th bowler in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka hoping that Ashwin, Mishra and Harbhajan can compensate for the 7th batsmen in the team. The biggest problem for India though is that they haven’t found a reliable bowling all-rounder yet to successfully incorporate the 5 bowler strategy.

The other problem the team management will face is the batting combination. It is clear that the team think tank supports the selection of Rohit Sharma in the X1, but with the arrival of Pujara the debate begins once again. Rohit played at number 5 in the second and third tests in Sri Lanka and did reasonably okay at that spot. It is certain that Murali Vijay and Shikar Dhawan will reclaim their spots as the openers in the first test against SA which will push Pujara to number 3 in the order. Virat Kohli will bat at number 4 and Rahane at number 5.

This makes the selection very interesting. Considering Indian think tank still wants to employ 5 bowlers strategy that leaves only one spot open which will be taken by a wicketkeeper. So it will be interesting as to what combination India will play in the first test. The selection of Rohit Sharma is just one end of the stick. The other issue which India will face is getting a bowling all-rounder to occupy the number 7 spot if at all they decide to go with 5 bowlers.

India employed Stuart Binny for the last 2 tests in Sri Lanka. Binny did okay in those games but again he will not be that effective on Indian pitches. He might score some runs but his bowling will not be that effective on pitches which will be aiding spinners in all probability. In Indian conditions the team would need a spin bowling all-rounder to occupy the number 7 spot. India already has Ravichandran Ashwin who is a decent bowling all-rounder and Amit Mishra showed that he can handle the bat competently to score some useful runs down the order. Now the options for a spin bowling all-rounder is minimal.

Couple of years back Ravindra Jadeja was a certainty in the Indian team but his form has gone south in the last couple of years. His performance in the one off game against Bangladesh A was nothing to write home about. The other option India has is Karn Sharma. Karn’s performance in Adelaide on a turning track does not inspire much confidence on his test match bowling ability. His batting too wasn’t too flash in that game. The last and final option India has is Axar Patel. Axar has done well for India in limited opportunities he has received in the shorter formats but his credentials as a test match bowler is questionable.

So considering the above options for the 5th bowler, it will be interesting to see if India does decide to go with the 5 bowler option at all for the tests against SA. The return of the injured players and the arrival of Pujara back in to the X1 leaves the think tank with more headaches than they could handle. The batting combination needs to be worked out and the decision of Pujara or Rohit needs to be made ahead of the first test. This could also mean that India could ditch the 5 bowler strategy and play both Pujara and Rohit in the X1. If they decide to drop Rohit and play an all-rounder, it will be interesting to see whom they will pick. There are plenty of things to worry about for the Indian think tank ahead of the test series against South Africa. It will be interesting to see what combination Kohli & Co will go for in the test series.


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