Picking an India squad is perhaps the toughest job in the world. You pick a player based on talent, there is criticism; you pick a player based on experience, there is equally a big cry. So, if you are a selector, what do you do? Well, nothing.
On Monday (September 12), amidst a lull in the country after the Asia Cup exit, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced the 15-man squad for the T20 World Cup Down Under, with four reserves. But what about the ones that were part of the plans and didn’t make the cut. How did they lose out on a spot?
Since the unceremonious exit from the T20 World Cup in 2021, India have tried out as many as 28 players. While some have taken their opportunity to the fullest, like Arshdeep Singh, Deepak Hooda and Dinesh Karthik, the others have not made the cut.
We find out where and how the others missed the flight to Australia.
Despite at one point being India’s leading run-scorer in the shortest format this year, Ishan Kishan lost out on a spot for the T20 World Cup. In the 15 innings that he played since November 2021, the left-hander scored 459 runs, averaging 30.6 at a strike-rate of 130.8. Whilst not only is he a left-hander, his impetus at the top of the order allowed India to make a comeback in the home series against South Africa.
So, having done all of this, how did he lose his spot? In Kishan’s case, the best-case possibility for him was to make the reserves of the Indian squad, in the presence of skipper Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul. Kishan’s vulnerability against pace, as the numbers suggest – average of 29.7 and a strike-rate of 125.32 – did not help his case either. His inability to manoeuvre strike in the middle-overs also did more harm.
During his stint with the Mumbai Indians in the middle-order, his numbers against spin was a major worry, which could be a prime reason as to why the selectors did not consider the left-hander, even when Ravindra Jadeja’s exit opened a spot for left-hander in the middle-order.
When Hardik Pandya was injured, Iyer became the automatic choice for the all-rounder’s position in the shortest format. Iyer was extremely impressive in the Indian colours, both against New Zealand and then, against West Indies. In seven innings, the left-hander struck 133 runs, at a strike-rate of 162.2, including a quick-fire 35* against the West Indies in Kolkata.
With the ball, the Madhya Pradesh man picked up five wickets, averaging 15, after bowling 9.1 overs. But what let Iyer down was his performance in the 2022 IPL combined with the outstanding return of Hardik, the all-rounder.
Iyer posted a string of disappointing displays for Kolkata Knight Riders, with just 182 runs across 12 innings, at a miserable average of 16.55 and an underwhelming strike-rate of 107.7. And with Hardik returning, it was just a matter of time.
With 13 wickets in 14 innings at an average of 32.5, you would say that Avesh Khan did not make a great case for himself, right? That is the case, the final nail in his coffin, at least in terms of World Cup selection was his display in the Asia Cup, where he averaged 36.
His performance against Hong Kong, where he went for 53 runs having picked the one wicket was what possibly saw him out of the Indian squad.
Avesh might consider himself unlucky, for the selectors not giving him a longer rope. But the fact remains that the right-arm pacer was India’s fourth-worst bowler during the phase, behind Umran Malik, Ravindra Jadeja and Deepak Chahar. The Indore pacer is just 25, and with time in hand, expect him to make a comeback, sooner or later.
India persisted with Gaikwad throughout the home season and then even in Ireland. But the right-hander was a shadow of himself in the Indian colours. Barring the impressive 57 that he made against South Africa, his scores of 10, 5, 1, 23, 4, 14 and 21 were far from warranting a spot in the Indian team.
Unlike Kishan, Gaikwad will definitely not consider himself unlucky. Given India’s depth of resource pool, the right-hander might need to make more than strings of IPL scores to find a place in the Indian side. His average in Indian colours – of 16.67 and a strike-rate of 123.5 – was underwhelming to say the least.
It is a bigger puzzle than the Bermuda Triangle. Why does Sanju Samson not warrant himself a place?
Some questioned his consistency prior to this year in the Indian colours, he proved them wrong. Some questioned whether he could play well outside the country, which was also proven wrong. Yet, for some reason, which we will list out, the right-hander continues to find himself out of the Indian squad.
“As a team management, we see lot of potential, we see lot of talent and we see lot of match-winning abilities in Sanju Samson. His back-foot play is superb, some of the shots you must have seen during the IPL, the pick-up pull, the cut shots, standing and delivering over bowler’s head," said Rohit Sharma prior to the Sri Lanka series.
“Those kinds of shots are not easy to play and I believe when we go to Australia, you need those kind of shot-making ability and Samson does has it in him. I just hope that he utilises his potential to the maximum."
And despite all of this, Samson is out of the squad. He was definitely not helped with the injury to Jadeja, which made Pant untouchable. But what was alarming was that the selectors never considered him over Shreyas Iyer as part of the reserves. It still remains a big puzzle.
India’s unreal depth in the resources is at times, unfathomable. It almost feels like they have a cheat-code to produce the best of T20 talents with the click of a button. Umran Malik was the find of IPL 2022, with his ability to clock 150+ kmph, with relative ease. He was also extremely hyped, leading into the long international calendar for India. And, he made his international debut in Dublin against Ireland.
0/14 (in one over), 1/42 and 1/56 was the biggest reason Umran wasn’t picked in the Indian setup. He is young but at the same time, he is quite raw. His performance at the highest level hasn’t quite warranted himself a place in the Indian 15.
Multiple experts have called it a missed opportunity for India but the 22-year-old’s performance was starkly different from his show for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Kuldeep Yadav sprung a surprise with his performance in the 2022 IPL for Delhi Capitals, where he picked up 21 wickets at an average of 20. That, in return, earned him a place in the Indian playing XI for the series against West Indies. Even in that series, he was impressive in the final T20I, where he ended with figures of 3/12.
But truth be said, Kuldeep was never a contender to make the cut for the global event Down Under, especially in the presence of Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravi Bishnoi. And the injury to Jadeja further helped both Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin to find themselves a place in the Indian 15.
Siraj could have been a surprise weapon that India could have picked for the T20 World Cup, at least in the reserves. The right-arm pacer made five T20I appearances for India, two of which have come this year, where he picked up two wickets.
But where the right-arm seamer lost his spot should take us back to IPL 2022. In 15 appearances for Royal Challengers Bangalore, Siraj picked up just nine wickets, averaged a horrendous 57.1 at an economy rate of 10.1.
In addition, he also conceded the most sixes (31) in a single IPL season, further underlining his struggle with the white-ball. Siraj could have been a surprise weapon, had he performed with consistency for RCB.
It is a mystery why Shardul Thakur has played just the one T20I for India since the World Cup exit in the Middle East. But it is no mystery why the all-rounder from Mumbai did not find himself a place in the World Cup squad. His performance after a big-money move to Delhi Capitals was far from impressive.
He might have ended the tournament with 15 wickets, averaging 31.5 but most of his wickets in the season came during the back end of the IPL. In the first eight games for Delhi, the all-rounder just picked four wickets, with a terrible economy rate. Barring three encounters – against Chennai Super Kings, KKR and Mumbai Indians – his impact with the bat was minimal.
On top of that, the all-rounder becoming an integral part of the red-ball setup might also have reduced his chances for the T20 World Cup. But what remains clear was that the DC all-rounder was never a prime contender nor was an outside choice to make the Indian squad, rightfully.