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Judgement Day beckons India’s bowlers as road to 2024 T20WC begins

Last updated on 25 Mar 2023 | 03:21 PM
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Judgement Day beckons India’s bowlers as road to 2024 T20WC begins

IPL 2023 is all set to shape India’s bowling attack for the next T20 World Cup

The next T20 World Cup might be more than a year away but with plenty of T20 bilaterals lined up to be played in the next 8 months, it goes without saying that the management will closely track players’ IPL 2023 performances, with one eye on the mega event.

There are vacancies on the bowling front and, in total, about 15 players are contending for the available spots.

In this article, we look at where different bowlers stand in terms of the pecking order, and what they need to achieve in IPL 2023 to keep their T20WC hopes alive.

For convenience’s sake, we’ll be splitting the players into two categories: the red zone players and the orange/yellow zone players.

The red zone (perform or perish)

T Natarajan Before the knee injury he sustained in 2021, T Natarajan was a regular in the T20I side thanks to his death-bowling prowess, but he’s since completely dropped out of the picture. It’s been more than 2 years since Natarajan donned the Indian colours and one suspects that, for it to change anytime soon, he’ll need to have a world-class campaign. But he’s fallen so far behind in the pecking order that even it might prove to be not enough.

Rahul Chahar

18 months ago, Rahul Chahar played in the T20 World Cup in UAE as India’s first-choice leggie. Fast forward to March 2023, he’s barely in the conversation. Chahar had an encouraging first season with Punjab Kings — 14 wickets @ ER 7.71 — but to find himself in the scheme of things again, he will have to make heads turn. What works in Chahar’s favour is that, on the wrist-spinning front, there are only about 4-5 bowlers gunning for one spot. Compare that to the pace department, where about 11 are competing for one vacant slot.

Varun ChakravarthyLike Rahul Chahar, Varun Chakravarthy last played for India in the T20 World Cup in UAE and is currently nowhere near the T20I picture. For him to make it back to the side, you’d think he would either need to challenge for the purple cap, or at the very least have a Rashid Khan-esque season. 

Ravichandran AshwinAshwin finds himself in this category for no fault of his. He’s here due to one factor and one factor only: his age. With the management hinting towards moving on from Ashwin by leaving him out of all three bilateral series post the World Cup, the 36-year-old might just need to produce outstanding returns to keep his hopes alive. It is worth noting that Ashwin will be 38 by the time the 2024 T20 World Cup comes about.

The Orange / Yellow Zone  (already in the mix, but need to push their case)

Ravi BishnoiIn many ways, Ravi Bishnoi was unlucky to not make it to the reserves of the T20WC squad last year, having impressed in the limited opportunities he got. That he didn’t make it to the squad for the New Zealand and Sri Lanka T20Is was, in fact, puzzling. But rest assured he’ll be immediately back in the mix with an impressive season. Apart from age being on his side, Bishnoi also has a unique edge due to the fact that he’s a mystery bowler of sorts.

Harshal PatelHarshal Patel went from ‘first-choice’ to ‘out of the squad’ in the span of two months, but he still is a good IPL 2023 away from getting himself back into the mix. The things that work in his favour — compared to, say, a Natarajan — are the fact that he can bat, and the fact that the T20WC will be played in slow conditions. If Harshal is in form, hence, the management will certainly want to utilize him.

Shardul ThakurShardul might not have played T20Is in over a year but, again, the added advantage of being a handy lower-order batter will always give him an edge over the others. Considering he found himself being a part of the reserves for the T20WC, he definitely is someone the management fancies. He, too, will make the shortlist if he enjoys a good IPL 2023.

Avesh Khan

Six months ago Avesh looked primed to make it to the T20WC squad, but now he finds himself way behind in the pecking order. Such is the competition he faces that you imagine he’ll need to have a stellar season to get back into the scheme of things. It doesn’t help his case that, unlike Shardul and Harshal, he’s a specialist bowler that does not bat. But his pace, bounce and his versatility — the ability to bowl in all three phases — will always keep him in the mix.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

Ahead of IPL 2023, Bhuvneshwar finds himself in a very interesting, or, rather, tricky situation. While he was left out of the home games against New Zealand and Sri Lanka post the T20WC, there is little doubt that he is someone that the management regard highly, due to which he will almost certainly make it back to the squad with a good IPL. However, age not being on his side means that with a poor IPL, the door could end up getting shut on him forever.

Shivam MaviAt the start of the year, few — if any — had Shivam Mavi as a potential bolter for the next T20WC but him getting picked for the Sri Lanka and New Zealand T20Is is a clear sign that the management rate him, and have already shortlisted him. So awaiting Mavi are the two biggest months of his life. And it is a 'nothing to lose, everything to gain' situation. Through a strong season, he most certainly will make the next filtered shortlist, if not retain his spot in the squad. That he plays for the Gujarat Titans is a huge bonus too; he has a chance to directly impress the vice-captain (or dare we say captain?).  

Mohammed SirajThrough a horror IPL 2022, Siraj bowled himself out of contention for the 2022 T20WC but, this time around, he has the opportunity to do the opposite. Again, the competition Siraj is facing is crazy but with him, it’s never been a question of ability; just form. He’s also someone rated very highly by both skipper Rohit and coach Dravid, so there’s little doubt that Siraj will catapult right into the starting XI with a stellar IPL 2023.  

Deepak ChaharInjuries have been Chahar’s kryptonite so you’d imagine that, above everything else, he’d first need to prove his fitness by bowling at full tilt for the entirety of the season, and emerge through the other side unscathed. Chahar is competing with the likes of Siraj and Shami for being the side’s go-to powerplay bowler but his batting gives him a significant edge over the other two, and more competitors. Rest assured Chahar will get himself straight back into the mix with an above-average IPL; with a good season, he most definitely walks into the starting XI. 

Yuzvendra Chahal Chahal is someone who’s in a unique situation. Essentially, this is a ‘nothing to gain, everything to lose’ kinda tournament for the leggie. Even if he has a good IPL, there’s no reason for Chahal to be optimistic. Time and again, he’s seen the management lose trust in him in the eleventh hour, regardless of his form and experience. But with a bad IPL, he’ll definitely bowl himself out of the T20I set-up.

Kuldeep YadavDespite being the incumbent (of sorts), Kuldeep finds himself in the Yellow zone due to having not made the starting spot his own, yet. Should he go on to have a season as good as he had last year (or even close to it), though, Kuldeep will go a long way in earning himself a very long rope.

Washington Sundar and Axar PatelBoth Sundar and Axar already seem very much to be in the management’s plans for the 2024 T20WC. You’d think the only way these players move away from the T20I set-up is if they end up having a Siraj-esque (2022) season. Even then, they might get a mini-run in the side to prove themselves due to the package they bring.

Who all find themselves in the green zone? (i.e. certain to make the squad)

Two bowlers, Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja, are guaranteed to start no matter what. 

Arshdeep Singh and Umran Malik find themselves in the green zone too, albeit for different reasons. While Arshdeep already is an incumbent that's done well, and hence is bound to get an extended run no matter what, it is clear Umran is a project player. He possesses that x-factor which no other pacer in the country does, and thus will always be in the management's plans.

There’s a temptation to put Shami in here, considering he always ends up finding himself in the starting XI come the T20WC, but let’s just say he belongs to a category of his own. A ‘T20WC specialist’ category. 

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