The farce that is India's T20I team
Let's ignore the fact that BCCI chose to name the team for the Australia series right in the middle of a game in a tournament that they themselves conduct. Let's ignore the fact that they were completely ambiguous about the injury concerns surrounding their vice-captain (rather, former vice-captain). Let's ignore the fact that they don't have a back-up wicket-keeper in the One Day International team.
But, how do we ignore the T20I team that has been selected? How do they explain the absence of Suryakumar Yadav or the inclusion of Manish Pandey and Ravindra Jadeja? How do we come to terms with the fact that the richest board in the world with the best T20 league in the world continues to see T20s as an abridged version of One Day Internationals?
Let's try and split the T20 squad named:
Top-order batsmen: Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (wk), Sanju Samson (wk)
Middle-order: Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya
All-rounders: Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar
Spinners: Yuzvendra Chahal, Varun Chakravarthy
Pacers: Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar
*Four additional bowlers - Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kartik Tyagi, Ishan Porel and T. Natarajan - will also travel with the Indian team.
One look at the squad composition and the first question that stares at you is the fact that they have so many top-order options.
All batsmen mentioned above belong to those respective categories based on their natural game, but with the squad that India have named, it's impossible to use them as such.
Anchors, Anchors, Anchors
With Virat Kohli at No. 3 almost a given, only two of Rahul, Dhawan, Mayank and Samson will fit in at the top and none of these can possibly bat at No. 4 either.
This leaves them to pick not just Shreyas Iyer, but also Manish Pandey at No. 5 as they don't have a proper middle-order batsman capable of hitting big. They chose to drop Rishabh Pant - another bizarre decision given that the only batsman to average better and strike higher than him in the last three years in Indian T20 League is AB de Villiers.
This leaves India with one power-hitter - Hardik Pandya - and three anchors - Kohli, Iyer, Manish - in the middle. Even considering Hardik at his brutal best, that's way less hitting calibre in a T20 line-up. Suryakumar Yadav, who has literally knocked the door down, deserved a go in that middle-order given how he has fared against pace and spin in the last 2-3 seasons.
Spin overload but the right ones?
In the bowling department, they have Ravindra Jadeja over Axar Patel and Krunal Pandya even when the experienced Chennai spinner has had torrid returns in the last couple of seasons. Axar's impressive pace variations have flown under the radar while Krunal remains the best batter among the three spinners and a smart thinker with the ball.
Sundar is a welcome addition and he likely alongside Chahal will start for India in the spin department. Why then do they have Varun Chakravarthy on top of this. Even ignoring the fact that he has played less than 15 professional T20 games, Chakravarthy's selection over someone like Rahul Chahar is bizarre especially when Chahar has been picked before. Shreyas Gopal was another candidate waiting in the wings.
Even considering recency bias with his five-wicket haul and mystery spin in general, it's too early to throw Chakravarthy into the deep end.
T Natarajan, who has bowled the most yorkers this Indian T20 League and handled the death overs impressively also remains on the sidelines, but the pace attack is fairly understandable given the performances they have put in so far for India and in the domestic circuit.
The big misses
The biggest misses in this squad are Suryakumar Yadav, Axar Patel or Krunal Pandya, Dinesh Karthik and Rahul Chahar. Karthik is a curious case as he has been discarded for good and been used improperly by Kolkata this Indian T20 League. His finishing capabilities could have been super helpful for Hardik Pandya.
The other issue is that Hardik is unlikely to bowl, which means India will have five frontline bowlers and no one capable of bowling part-time even from the top 6. With the five bowlers not as foolproof as some of the Indian T20 League teams even, India need to be prepared to leak runs and have no options to go to.
The puzzling selections reveal the archaic thought process for a format that is moving at a rapid pace. With back-to-back T20 World Cups coming up, India ought to have invested in players and built a solid core for this format. Ditching elite T20 players like Rishabh Pant does not work well for their future and shows less vision on the part of the management and selectors.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Punit Paranjpe