CHENNAI: Slotted in the middle of Ranji Trophy to enable selectors a look at resources ahead of World T20, this season’s Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy had a sense of purpose about it. Next month’s IPL auction was perhaps a bigger incentive, in an event which had previously been held in gaps in the calendar offering little to look forward to.
With India’s performance suggesting there’s room for change in middle order and bowling, the national T20 meet has not unearthed exceptional talent. Barring Mumabi’s Shreyas Iyer, names doing the rounds are mostly tried ones reinventing self, showing that on current form, they are effective in conditions the big one will be played in. Experts Express spoke to said with exceptions like Gujarat quick Jaspreet Bumrah and UP chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, there aren’t many new prospects in bowling. This reality is starker in the pace department, where India suffers regularly due to lack of speed, swing, fitness and consistency.
“Bowling is a concern. We haven’t seen anybody outstanding. Other than those in the Indian team, there aren’t many spinners doing well either,” said Rohan Gavaskar, who was TV commentator during the event. “We need bowlers clocking around 140, unless someone has prodigious swing. Didn’t seen many doing these or many variations, which are important in T20,” felt Devang Gandhi, who was also behind the mic.
With Bumrah in the T20 squad for Australia, Irfan Pathan and Dhawal Kulkarni are back in reckoning. Piyush Chawla is also among contenders. Occupying top spots in the charts, they’ve at least shown that if current form is a criteria, they have some of it going their way.
“Dhawal got early breakthroughs and swung the new ball, which is crucial in any format. He was disciplined too. Irfan also looked in good touch. Swing is his strength and he got it to move both ways apart from scoring useful runs. They can be looked at, leaving out Bumrah and Hardik Pandya (all-rounder), who have been rewarded with berths in the Indian team,” said Gavaskar junior, rated somewhat of a one-day specialist in his brief international career.
Gandhi, who opened for India in four Tests and three ODIs, found the UP spinners impressive. “Chawla has consistently taken wickets and has a lot of IPL experience, which makes him a contender. Yadav showed attacking mindset in the final and guts to flight the ball. Given that unorthodox bowlers are preferred in T20s, he can also be an option.”
Despite Suresh Raina strengthening the Indian middle order in T20s, one more slot could be up for grabs considering Ajinkya Rahane’s injury and the lack of explosives in this area. Among batsmen who excelled in Mushtaq Ali was Iyer, who failed to get substantial scores for India A last year. He is still reckoned as the man to watch out for.
“Iyer is a fearless striker with all the shots, who likes playing aggressive brand of cricket. He also has the confidence that comes from a chain of good scores and looks a good prospect,” said Gavaskar. Gandhi included Mumbai captain Aditya Tare to this list. “He has the spark and does well when things get difficult. But they must show consistency,” he said.
Regardless of not many new names popping up, rescheduling the tournament drew praise from all concerned. While the idea was the national team would benefit, time will tell whether it was IPL teams that gained more than the Blue.