With the Indian T20 League and 2020 T20I World Cup happening in the same year, the former inevitably becomes an overriding competition for several players eyeing a place in their country’s respective starting XIs.
As far as the Indian cricket team is concerned, their back-to-back series wins over heavyweights like New Zealand, Australia and then England have put light on the sheer balance and hulking bench strength that the team has heading into the World Cup.
The Virat Kohli-led team has never shied away from making necessary tweaks, but a competition as severe as the World Cup demands surety, and this is where the upcoming edition of the Indian T20 League comes into picture.
The Indian cricket team is stacked with options and these five players need to make the most of the Indian T20 League if they are to have a shot at the World Cup later in the year.
Before the recent T20I series against England, opener KL Rahul had scored three half-centuries and had scored some vital quickfire knocks against New Zealand and Australia. The Punjab opener had, in fact, accumulated 305 runs in eight innings against the aforementioned teams, but all that changed when he faced a stern English bowling attack. He failed miserably to an extent that he could only muster 15 runs in four innings.
Now one might very well call it a bad run of form, but with players like Ishan Kishan waiting in the foray, Rahul just cannot afford any more errors. That coupled with a fantastic opening partnership between Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in the final T20I against England further explained how India might approach the World Cup if Rahul fails to make the cut. And thus it goes without saying that the 28-year-old needs a golden patch in the Indian T20 League.
Following his evident struggles against Australia Down Under, opener Prithvi Shaw was overlooked for the entire England series. The youngster, however, made a stunning comeback in the Vijay Hazare Trophy by scripting history, becoming the first player to score 800 runs in a single edition of the tournament. But while his batting has been on level, at least in the limited-overs format, his fielding and even his temperament has been a constant issue. Working under someone like Ricky Ponting at Delhi in the Indian T20 League might work in his favour as he continues his work towards a possible redemption.
Loved by the fans, adored by his teammates, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja needs no introduction whatsoever. Injury issues, however, mean that he has not played a T20I game since December 4, 2020, when he scored an unbeaten 44 in India’s 11-run win over Australia. He was rightly expected to be a big miss against England, but as things stand, India have done fairly enough anyway. Jadeja’s all-round capability, which includes being an important lower-order batsman, comes in handy for India, but the addition of Suryakumar Yadav now makes things difficult for the left-arm spinner. With Yadav now batting at no.3 or no. 4, India have the luxury of playing as many as seven batsmen if the condition demands. Hence, Jadeja needs to have a telling impact in the Indian T20 League if he is eyeing a return to the shortest format.
Rahul Chahar may have picked just two wickets in as many T20Is against England, but that effectively won India the 4th T20I. As the likes of Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes continued their annihilation, the Mumbai spinner got the better of the former right after he had dismissed a dangerous man in Dawid Malan. The 21-year-old spinner has been an expensive bowler in his international career so far, but the same cannot be said for his Indian T20 League tenure. In 31 matches so far, Chahar bowled at an economy of under eight as opposed to his international figure of over nine. As we speak, there’s even a stark contrast in his bowling average as well.
What Chahar really needs to work on is his inability to keep the batsmen at bay. It certainly remains a long shot for the 21-year-old to have a go at the T20I squad, but a fantastic Indian T20 League might very well warrant him a place in the team.
By the time the T20I World Cup looms, India might very well have a full-strength squad, which includes their fierce bowling attack of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami. So there will be little to no space for another pacer to be fair. Like Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed sure remains amongst wickets, but he fails to keep his economy in check. The 2021 Indian T20 League presents him an opportunity of working on the flaws. After having been retained by the Hyderabad team, Khaleel needs to make a case for himself or this might very well be his last throw of the dice.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @IPL