Surprising Misses in the India Squad for 2021 Men's T20 World Cup
The BCCI announced a 15-man squad for the 2021 Men's T20 World Cup in UAE.
When India announced their men’s squad for the 2021 T20 World Cup on Wednesday, 8 September, there were a few shocks and a few surprises. For starters, the return of R Ashwin caught everyone by surprise, as did the announcement that MS Dhoni would mentor the side.
Understandably, the two veterans stole the headlines on Wednesday evening.
While the Indian squad led by Virat Kohli looks to have the wherewithal to make it deep into the tournament, and they will be expected to do so as well, there were some notable absentees in the 15-man squad.
Was there bound to be heartbreak for a few of the experienced Indian cricketers? Probably, yes, considering the bench strength that puts Indian cricket in a very good place.
The likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Yuzvendra Chahal, and Kuldeep Yadav are among those who have missed the bus for the 2021 T20 World Cup.
The T20 World Cup will be held across four venues — Muscat, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah.
The World Cup kicks off on 17 October with the qualifying rounds while India begin their campaign against Pakistan on 24 October. The final of the World Cup will be on 14 November. The West Indies are the current defending champions.
Here’s a look at some of the surprising omissions from the Indian squad for the men’s T20 World Cup.
Captain for the Sri Lanka series, Dhawan did not make it to the squad despite being in excellent touch this year and the squad also not having too many choices in terms of back-up. In the IPL, in the first half of 2021, Dhawan with 380 runs from 8 matches was the highest getter so far.
For Dhawan, one of the major criticisms was that he was a slow-starter. However, in recent years, the southpaw worked on his game and improved his strike rates, especially visible in the last two seasons of the IPL.
However, it wasn’t enough to make it to the 15-man squad with KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma as designated openers with Ishan Kishan as back up. Even Kohli has shown that he is willing to open in the 20-over format.
At the time the team was announced, Chief Selector Chetan Sharma said Dhawan is definitely in the scheme of things despite missing the bus on this occasion. However, it might just be the end of the road for Dhawan in T20s for India.
“He is a very important player for us. He was the captain in Sri Lanka. What discussion we had on him, I can’t disclose. But he is there in the loop. The need of the hour was that we wanted to look at other players while we give rest to Dhawan," the former India cricketer said on Wednesday.
Considered to be part of the spine for the Indian team’s spin department, Chahal, unfortunately, was excluded from the World Cup squad. Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav were India’s top spinners in the build up to the World Cup but poor form in recent years has hurt them both.
While Kuldeep’s slump has been worse, Chahal’s recent form has been quite a worry. Since 2020 began, he’s played 13 games and taken 11 wickets at a very high economy of just under 9 runs per over.
The selectors picked the far less experienced Rahul Chahar and noted that the team needed a quicker spinner. In IPL 2021, Chahar is the most successful Indian spinner after 7 games with 11 wickets while Chahal’s got 4. The Mumbai Indians’ spinner also has a much lower economy rate as compared to Chahal, helping tilt the scales in his favour.
“You want a spinner who can deliver with more speed," Sharma said. "Recently we have seen Rahul Chahar bowling with speed. The selectors' view was we need a spinner who can find the grip off the surface on the wickets and deliver with slightly more speed, and while we had a lot of discussion on Chahal, we eventually went with Rahul Chahar."
Included in the touring party as a standby player, Deepak Chahar will be disappointed at not making the final cut. The Indian team’s bowling attack was always going to depend on whether Hardik Pandya bowls his overs, and according to the chief selector, he will. That in turn opens up more options for the Indian thinktank and on surfaces that are likely to be on the slower side, the selection committee decided to go spin heavy.
Deepak has not really put a foot wrong since making his T20I debut in 2018. Only on four occasions has he gone wicketless and is quite good at keeping the run rate down. In his short career of 14 T20Is so far, he averages 19.3 with an economy rate of 7.59.
In IPL 2021, too, he’s been among the better bowlers with 8 wickets from 7 games at an economy of 8.04 and an average of 24.12.
“If the wickets are such that you can only play two pacers in the 11, there is no point then to the bench (the extra fast bowlers). Instead, you have utility players who will come in handy at some point in the match and that is why you have spinners and allrounders. If you have seen the recent matches, Hardik Pandya is absolutely fit. He is going to bowl his quota of overs, there’s no problem. We were trying to preserve him, we did not want to have a (bad) situation before the World Cup, but he is 100% fit (to bowl)," Chetan Sharma said when asked about the absence of Deepak, Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur.
Fast bowling all-rounder Shardul, however, like Deepak is part of the travelling contingent as a standby player.
One of the big finds of the IPL, which was held in UAE in 2020, T Natarajan added a very unique dimension to the attack with his left arm pace. Add to that his ability be accurate in the death overs meant, India could really pile on the pressure.
Drafted into the Indian team on the back of the IPL last season, Natarajan was part of India’s memorable tour to Australia as a net bowler, but eventually made his debut across formats, adding bite to the attack.
A left arm pacer would definitely have been an excellent addition to the Indian attack in UAE, however, Natarajan picked up an injury in IPL 2021 and since has not played any competitive cricket.
“We definitely had a discussion on T Natarajan, but he hasn’t played cricket for a long time and he is part of the injury list and that is the reason we stuck to the main guys," the chief of the selection committee noted on Wednesday.
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