Chahar Over Chahal, No Dhawan – How IPL Form and T20 WC Selections Spell Irony
Based on IPL form in the UAE, have India selected their best-possible squad for the T20 World Cup?
In an ideal world, most of the Indian players doing well in the ongoing second instalment of IPL 2021 should be part of India's T20 World Cup squad, with there being literally no gap between the end of the IPL and the beginning of the showpiece event. Just like is the case with the CPL and the West Indies squad or the PSL and the Pakistan squad.
Sounds quite reasonable, doesn't it? However, as it happens more often than not, the reality is far from ideal.
Well, who are the five Indian batsmen with the most runs in the UAE phase of IPL 2021?
Sanju Samson (175 runs)
Ruturaj Gaikwad (166 runs)
Virat Kohli (134 runs)
Rahul Tripathi (128 runs)
Venkatesh Iyer (126 runs)
Now, how many of the above are part of the Indian T20 World Cup squad? Correct. Only captain Virat Kohli.
Likewise with the bowlers as well.
The Indian bowlers with the most wickets in the second phase of IPL 2021 are Jasprit Bumrah (10 wickets), Harshal Patel (9 wickets), Yuzvendra Chahal (7 wickets), Arshdeep Singh (6 wickets) and Mohammed Shami (6 wickets).
Again, only two of these – Bumrah and Shami – are part of India's T20 World Cup squad.
There are no qualms in admitting that the BCCI, under chief selector Chetan Sharma, picked a largely impressive T20 World Cup squad despite ruffling a few feathers, which is obvious and understandable because as Audrey Heller said, 'Most times, you can't please everybody.'
With there being room for only 15 players in the squad, there are always going to be a couple of players (and plenty of analysts) who would end up being disappointed with the result. It's a simple case of supply versus demand. The supply being in hundreds, and the demand just 15.
The most notable exclusions from India's T20 World Cup squad were Shikhar Dhawan, who has had a sensational record in multi-national events, Yuzvendra Chahal, who has been India's leading spinner over the last five years, Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur, who many thought had pipped Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the T20 pecking order.
While the likes of KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, and to a lesser extent Ishan Kishan were unanimous selections, the form of the T20 World Cup bound players would have certainly given the selectors and the BCCI a few headaches.
Picked the Right Spinners?
The only conventional leg spinner in the squad – among the most valuable trades in the shortest format – Rahul Chahar has not been able to find his feet in the UAE. Although he had a decent season in IPL 2020 which was played entirely in the UAE, finishing as the third-highest wicket-taker for Mumbai Indians with 15 scalps at 28.86 and an economy of 8.16, he has struggled for consistency in the UAE this time around.
The leggie started well, bowling at an economy rate of 5.50 in the first match of IPL 2021 phase 2 between MI and CSK despite going wicketless. Chahar went for 34 runs from his three overs against Kolkata Knight Riders and for 33 runs from his four overs against Royal Challengers Bangalore in his next two matches.
Chahal, on the other hand, has been the third-highest wicket-taker in the UAE leg with 7 wickets from 4 matches at 11.14 and an economy rate of 5.57, with the best of 3/11.
Chetan Sharma's reasoning behind picking Chahar over Chahal was that Team India wanted a wrist spinner who bowls fast and gets pace off the pitch. Interestingly, Chahal took a jibe at the comment on Twitter recently.
It seems, at least for the moment, that the slower pace is actually helping Chahal to get batsmen miscue hoicks and get them holed out in the deep.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel are also not particularly setting the stage on fire. Mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy, though, has continued to impress.
Batting Line-Up Concerns
KL Rahul, despite being among the top five run-getters in IPL 2021, has been slow to get off the blocks in the UAE and while there is no question over his class – cue the glorious century at Lord's in the 2nd Test – you've got to feel for Shikhar Dhawan, who is currently leading the run charts this year.
The southpaw had also scored 618 runs at 44.14 and a strike rate of 144 in IPL 2020. Add to that his consistency in multi-national tournaments and his partnership with Rohit Sharma at the top of the order and you cannot help but ponder over the what ifs.
The biggest point of concern remains the form of middle-order batsmen Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan. SKY has recorded scores of 3, 5, 8 and 0 in phase 2 of IPL 2021. Ishan Kishan after scoring 11, 14 and 9 has been replaced by Saurabh Tiwary.
Key to India's balance, Hardik Pandya has also not done anything out of the ordinary till now with the bat and he's not bowling for Mumbai yet. Perfect, ain't it? Your only pace bowling all-rounder is still circumspect of rolling his arm over one month prior to the competition.
The saving grace is that the selectors still have time to make a couple of changes to the 15-strong squad, if need be, until the official deadline of 10 October.
Indian white-ball vice-captain Rohit Sharma recently shared a post on Instagram with a picture of the rookie Indian team holding aloft the inaugural T20 World Cup trophy on the 14th anniversary of India's title win with the caption 'India, let's make it happen'.
For India to make it happen again, and you bet they have the ability, they will have to sort out their indifferent form big time, and before long.
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