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Best selectors could have done

After Rishabh Pant had sealed his place as the first-choice wicketkeeper-batter following an impressive return to competitive cricket after a near-fatal injury, the back-up stumper's slot had three claimants in Sanju Samson, KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan.
Last Updated : 30 April 2024, 19:50 IST
Last Updated : 30 April 2024, 19:50 IST

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Bengaluru: On the face of it, it appears as if India’s selectors had a fairly simple task of picking the squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup. A glance at the Rohit-Sharma led 15-member squad reveals no surprises. But scratch the top and you will see some serious juggling before the selectors zeroed in on the "best" players for the event, beginning June 2 and to be jointly hosted by the USA and the West Indies.

While at least eight players picked themselves, the remaining seven had to be debated -- some less and others more -- as they had competition. After Rishabh Pant had sealed his place as the first-choice wicketkeeper-batter following an impressive return to competitive cricket after a near-fatal injury, the back-up stumper's slot had three claimants in Sanju Samson, KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan. While Kishan and Rahul had strung together a couple of good knocks, Samson's irresistible form was too good to be ignored. The Kerala player has accumulated 385 runs in nine matches at an average of 77 but more importantly at a strike rate of over 161.

The competition for the second opener's slot became fairly straightforward after Yashasvi Jaiswal shed his indifferent form with a belligerent ton against Mumbai Indians. His closest competitor Shubman Gill's unimpressive run with the bat coupled with Jaiswal's left-handed variety made the Mumbaikar's case stronger with the Punjab batter relegated to reserves. 

Despite his poor IPL form, Hardik Pandya was going to be a certainty given his all-round prowess but Shivam Dube pipped Rinku Singh in the toss-up for the seventh batter's position. Besides his red-hot form for Chennai Super Kings, Dube can offer an over or two of pace bowling though his franchise hasn't been utilising his bowling services owing to IPL's dynamics. Rinku, who was a shoo-in for the event before the IPL but was unable to display his range of skills this season due to the Impact Player Rule, has been picked among the reserves.

The TINA factor, it's apparent, has come into play while picking the pace unit. While Jasprit Bumrah would have been the first name to be written on the list, Mohammed Siraj and Arshdeep Singh won the nod due to their experience rather than performances in the IPL, where they have been carted around. In the absence of the injured Mohammed Shami and with other young pacers failing to catch the selectors' attention in the IPL, Arshdeep and Siraj were natural fallback options.   

The selectors have also packed the squad with four spinners, fairly giving an indication of how the pitches are going to be in the Americas. Left-arm orthodox bowlers Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel and left-arm wrist Kuldeep Yadav were automatic choices whereas Yuzvendra Chahal forced his return to the national squad after a gap of nearly a year with a good show for Rajasthan Royals. While his comeback unites the once highly-successful wrist-spin pair of Kuldeep and Chahal, the chances of them playing together are slim to none for it will only elongate the tail - a sure recipe for disaster in the modern T20 game.

Keeping that in mind, the selectors have attempted to provide the team with batting firepower in the middle and lower-middle order as the top-order's ability to blast off from the start is still a bit suspect. While, with his 360-degree manoeuvring, Suryakumar Yadav can construct an innings at the desired pace, Dube, Hardik, Pant and Samson -- depending upon which three of the four get to play -- are capable of blasting the leather from the word go.

The squad may not embody the perfect definition of a modern T20 outfit, but it's the best the selectors could have done given the obvious compulsions and limitations in terms of certain resources.

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Published 30 April 2024, 19:50 IST

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