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India v South Africa: The audition for T20 World Cup is on

Last updated on 19 May 2022 | 03:52 AM
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India v South Africa: The audition for T20 World Cup is on

The Indian team management would want to try out some players and see if they could come in handy in Australia later this year

A few more days and we will be done with the Indian Premier League 2022, and the focus will straightaway shift to the upcoming T20 World Cup in Australia. A lot has happened since India’s disappointing group-stage exit from the last edition of the T20 World Cup in the UAE. The captaincy was handed over to Rohit Sharma, while Rahul Dravid replaced Ravi Shastri as India’s head coach. The Men in Blue have played nine T20Is since then and have won each one of them, defeating the likes of New Zealand, West Indies, and Sri Lanka at home. 

India are next scheduled to play five T20Is against South Africa (June 9-19) and the all-format players like Rohit, Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Rishabh Pant, and KL Rahul could be rested for the series. On top of that, Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, and Deepak Chahar are injured and could also miss the series. Shreyas Iyer and R Ashwin are supposed to travel to England next month and could also be left out. There are quite a few players who have done well in the ongoing IPL and the Indian team management would want to try them out and see if they could come in handy in Australia later this year.


(Shikhar Dhawan, Ishan Kishan, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Prithvi Shaw)

Rohit and Rahul are probably going to be India’s first-choice openers, but in their absence, Dhawan, Kishan, Gaikwad, and Shaw could get some game-time against the Proteas. It would make sense for the back-up option to be a left-hander and that’s why Kishan has been part of the Indian T20I set-up for a while now. The left-hander from Jharkhand is averaging just over 30 in the IPL 2022 but has operated at a strike rate of 118.21, which is the third-worst amongst batters who have faced at least 200 deliveries.

Kishan has been far from his best but India need someone like him because of how versatile he is. Then there is Dhawan who is averaging close to 40 this season but has a strike rate of just 122.7. The 36-year-old might even captain India in the upcoming series but it’s highly unlikely that he will travel to Australia. Gaikwad is back amongst runs but is surely behind Kishan and Shaw in the pecking order. And, it will be tough for the management to look past Shaw who has been phenomenal in the last two IPL seasons. 

He is someone you could call a “powerplay specialist”. The right-handed dasher has scored the most number of runs (353 at 171.4) in the powerplay since IPL 2021 and has the best strike rate amongst batters who have faced at least 100 deliveries in this phase. The second-best is 146.7. His numbers against pace are super impressive (strike rate - 175.95) and could prove to be a match-winner in Australian conditions. For now, the battle for the one back-up spot is largely going to be between Kishan and Shaw.


(Sanju Samson, Deepak Hooda, Tilak Varma, Rahul Tripathi)

It will be extremely difficult for any of these aforementioned players to break into the playing XI if Kohli, Suryakumar, Pant and Jadeja are all fit and available. However, at least one or two of them could still be part of the World Cup squad. Samson’s batting style is tailor-made for Australian conditions and he has been in pretty decent touch in the IPL. The Rajasthan Royals skipper has the highest score of 55 but has seven 25+ scores in 13 innings. Not once he has operated at a strike rate of less than 100 and is someone who could boss the middle-overs, considering he is good against both pace and spin.

In the absence of Kohli and Shreyas Iyer, Tripathi could be given the nod at No. 3. The 31-year-old has done a phenomenal job for Sunrisers Hyderabad at that position. The right-hander has a strike rate of more than 160 and is versatile enough to bat anywhere in the batting order. Amongst batters who have faced a minimum of 100 balls in the middle-phase (7-15), Tripathi has the second-best strike rate (161.6). Just like Samson, Tripathi too is one of those “selfless” batters.

Four half-centuries so far in IPL 2022, Hooda too is going to be part of the Indian squad for the South Africa series and will probably feature in every game in the absence of Jadeja. The 27-year-old, who is also a handy offspinner, has grown a lot as a player and has been consistent for Lucknow Super Giants. Prior to this season, the maximum runs he had scored in an edition was just 160. With Pant and Jadeja not being available, India don’t have a left-hander in the middle order. Kishan could bat in the middle and so could Venkatesh Iyer, but if needed, India could also give Tilak Varma an opportunity. Yes, this is his maiden IPL season but the 19-year-old has batted with a lot more maturity and has been Mumbai Indians’ best batter. 


(Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik, Rahul Tewatia, Venkatesh Iyer, Jitesh Sharma)

It will be tough to ignore Karthik with the kind of season he is having. Amongst batters who have played at least 10 innings, the 36-year-old has the best strike rate (192.6) in the competition. He has eight not outs to his name and has been consistently finishing games for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Almost 75 percent of his total runs have come in the last five overs and his strike rate of 235.11 against pace could make him a good pick for Australia. The only problem is India don’t have an all-rounder in their top-five and that would make it difficult to fit him at No. 6 or 7.

We all know what Pandya brings to the table if he is fit and bowling. The 28-year-old has been batting in the top-four for Gujarat Titans but we are well aware of what he can do batting lower down the order. However, India will need him to bowl at least a couple of overs every game and his inclusion will purely depend on his fitness. If some of the reports are to be believed, he could also end up leading India against South Africa. 

Tewatia is somebody else who has done well this season. He hasn’t bowled much but has literally won Gujarat five games with the bat. Tewatia has an average of 72.5 and a strike rate of close to 160 in the run-chases. Meanwhile, V Iyer’s form hasn’t been promising but could still retain his place. Punjab Kings wicketkeeper-batter Jitesh Sharma could be kept as a back-up for Karthik in this series. The 28-year-old has been superb with his glovework and has consistently played those fiery cameos down the order. 


(Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh, Shardul Thakur, Mohsin Khan, Umran Malik, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, T Natarajan, Mohammed Shami, Prasidh Krishna)

Khaleel Ahmed, Mukesh Choudhary, Mohammed Siraj... India have way too many options in the fast bowling department. As of now, Bumrah and Harshal look like certain starters in Australia, while the others will fight for that one remaining spot. The two generally operate in the second half of the innings, so the management would be looking for someone who could bowl in the powerplay. Siraj has been around the T20I set-up for a while but his performance in the ongoing competition has been horrendous and it might affect his immediate future in the shortest format of the game.

One of the biggest positives to emerge from this year’s IPL has been the performances of some of the Indian left-arm seamers. The likes of Arshdeep, Natarajan and Mohsin have all been exceptional for their respective franchises. It will eventually boil down to what exactly the team management is looking for. Arshdeep and Natarajan have been two of the best death bowlers in the competition, while Mohsin has bowled more than 75 percent of his overs before the last phase. Mohsin has an economy of 5 in the first 15 overs, while Natarajan is a genuine wicket-taker in the second half of the innings. Meanwhile, Arshdeep hasn’t taken enough wickets but has the third-best economy (8) at the death amongst seamers who have bowled at least 10 overs in this phase.

A left-arm seamer will bring that much-needed variety that India missed in the last World Cup, but if they are particularly looking for someone to operate in the powerplay, no other bowler has a better record than Shami (11 wickets at an average of 17.9 and an economy of 6) in this year’s IPL. Thakur will always be around because of his effectiveness with the bat, while someone like Krishna could prove to be handy on Australian surfaces. Tearaway quick Malik brings that x-factor, but it’s Avesh who deserves an ample amount of opportunities. The right-arm seamer has picked up 41 wickets at a strike rate of 15.3 and an economy of 7.9 in the last two editions. He has been consistent across all three phases. In fact, only two other bowlers have picked up more wickets than Avesh in this time period.  


(Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel/Krunal Pandya, Ravi Bishnoi, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar)

This is one department India will have everyone available. Chahal, who is currently the leading wicket-taker in IPL 2022, will be the prime spinner, while the second tweaker will mostly be someone who can bat.  The likes of Axar, Krunal, and Washington are not genuine wicket-takers but are pretty economical. Axar and Washington have been below-par this season, but Krunal hasn’t allowed the batters to score freely against them. Also, it’s highly unlikely that India will play two wristspinners in Australia, so Kuldeep and Bishnoi might only serve as a back-up for Chahal.

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