Selection commission of India

Most of the players pick themselves for the T20 WC, questions remain on backup options & pacers
Rahul Dravid, head coach of India, with captain Rohit Sharma
Rahul Dravid, head coach of India, with captain Rohit Sharma

CHENNAI: The dates are closing in. There is just about five weeks left for the upcoming 2024 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. The turfing of the outfield at Nassau County International Stadium is complete. The venue will play host to three of the four India games in the initial stages of the tournament, including the opener against Ireland on June 5. With teams expected to name their squads by May 1, who will be in India’s squad? How many players will pick themselves? What are the open slots? Let’s break it down one by one.

For starters, despite the number of youngsters who are lighting up the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL), the questions about India’s squad aren’t that many. The top-order, especially the top four, pick themselves with skipper Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav walking into their spots. If there is any question, it is whether Yashasvi Jaiswal will start as an opener.

The youngster finally broke the string of bad scores with a century against Mumbai Indians. With match-ups on offer considering Jaiswal is a southpaw, it should not come as a surprise if Jaiswal starts. Not to mention, the backing he has from the captain — Rohit was the first to embrace Jaiswal with a big smile after the match earlier this week. As for Kohli, despite the concerns of slowdown in middle-overs, he will still be in the team. The No. 3 could very well be a vital cog in the XI, considering the slower nature of surfaces in the Caribbean (if India do qualify).

If there is a problem of plenty or a selection headache, it is in the middle-order. Rishabh Pant has put his name front and centre with his performances as the first-choice keeper. If he walks in at No. 5, then comes Hardik Pandya, who’s form at the moment remains a concern. That being said, India do not have a like-for-like replacement for Pandya — a pace bowling all-rounder. The only alternative option, albeit not in all three departments, is Shivam Dube. The Mumbaikar has become a prominent spin-hitter but he is not bowling as much and has been used by Chennai Super Kings as an impact player.

While both Pant and Pandya walk in at No. 5 and 6, there are other players as well. Rinku Singh, for example, has pushed himself to be the finisher, but his one-dimensional skill could keep him out of the first XI. However, the UP batter should find a place in the 15-member squad. As for backup keeper, Jitesh Sharma has not helped himself with his performances while Sanju Samson and Rahul have. Samson has been consistent, but Rahul might still edge him out as he gives the flexibility of being the back-up opener and keeper. The problem, however, is that both of them bat in the top-order and this is where Dinesh Karthik has thrown his hat in the ring. Whether he will make the cut or not is not clear, but Karthik has expressed his intentions to play and is backing it up with high impact knocks as a finisher.

As far as the bowling department is concerned, Jasprit Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav walk into the XI while Ravindra Jadeja might be the safe pick for them at No. 7 despite his poor strike rate in the position. The third spinner could be a toss up between Axar Patel and Ravi Bishnoi and the former’s batting could prove to be the X-factor. The real concern lies in the pace department as barring Bumrah, others have not stepped up consistently in the IPL. The obvious choices would be Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Siraj and the reserve pick might depend on the form in the IPL. When the dust settles and the final squad comes out over the next few days, it might not look that different from the 2022 T20 WC squad, especially in the batting department (exception being Jaiswal). Whether that is a good thing or not, only time will tell.

Probable players in contention

Rohit Sharma, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Arshdeep Singh, KL Rahul, Sanju Samson, Ravi Bishnoi, Axar Patel, Shivam Dube, Rinku Singh, Avesh Khan.

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