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Pandya’s strike rate, Rahul’s role & more: what to keep an eye on in IPL 2024

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Last updated on 13 Mar 2024 | 01:28 PM
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Pandya’s strike rate, Rahul’s role & more: what to keep an eye on in IPL 2024

We look at what the Indian management and selectors will be keeping an eye on in this IPL season

From a team management perspective, an IPL right before the T20WC is a dream scenario. 

Because, what’s there not to like?

> You get to gauge the form and fitness of the incumbents

> You get to assess fringe players on a case-by-case basis and get to take a call on whether they deserve to be in the squad

> Evaluation is easy because all the individuals you are evaluating are literally playing against the best players in the world

> You have the largest possible pool to choose from. And you can justify your calls/selections quite easily because of point number three

Considering all this, there is little doubt that the Indian management (and the selectors) would be licking their lips at the prospect of IPL 2024 kicking off in two weeks’ time, knowing very well that they can clarify whatever doubts they have and finalize the squad for the 2024 T20 World Cup in June. 

For team India, most players pick themselves, but there are still certain boxes left to be checked. We look at what the management and the selectors will be keeping an eye on, in this IPL season.

How the wicket-keepers fare: Jitesh vs Kishan vs Samson

With two and a half months to go for the T20WC, one spot that’s there for the taking is the wicket-keeper’s slot in the middle-order. As it stands, Jitesh Sharma is the incumbent, with the Vidarbha wicket-keeper having played four of India’s last five T20Is. But he’s not made the spot his own by any means, having averaged just 14.28 so far in his T20I career. 

Sanju Samson featuring in the T20I series against Afghanistan in January suggests that he is very much in the management’s plan. You’d also have to assume that the door is still open for Ishan Kishan, despite his recent contract snub. It’s worth remembering that, three months ago, Kishan was very much the first-choice wicket-keeper in T20Is.

Hence there is a high possibility that, among the aforementioned three names, the individual that ends up having the best season might just end up taking the gloves for India at the T20WC. Among the three, Jitesh and Samson might have a slight edge since they bat in the middle-order for their respective franchises unlike Kishan, who opens the batting for Mumbai Indians (MI). 

Where KL Rahul bats, and how he bats

Let’s not make the mistake of ruling KL Rahul out of contention for the wicket-keeper’s slot. Rahul might not have played a T20I since the T20 World Cup in 2022 but there’s no way the selectors and the management will ignore him if he has an outstanding season.

You reckon the management will be keen on two things: where he bats, and how he bats. 

For the past few years, Rahul has been a top-order anchor in the IPL. But he might force himself into the WK conversation if he bats in the middle-order and takes up the role of an aggressor. 

If Rahul can somehow prove that he can do what he does in ODIs in T20 cricket as well, with the same impact, you bet he’s gonna get picked. 

Rishabh Pant’s form and fitness

Despite BCCI Secretary Jay Shah’s public announcement, the chances of Rishabh Pant making it to the T20WC look slim. But the selectors and the management will definitely follow his season with keen interest.

If Pant can have an outstanding IPL 2024 and force his way into the T20WC squad, GREAT! That’s a near-dream scenario. 

But team India will be more than happy if Pant just shows glimpses of his brilliance here and there, and proves his fitness through the course of the season.

That will be reason enough for the team to be optimistic about the left-hander being 100% (in terms of form, match fitness etc) for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in November. 

Rohit Sharma’s impact with the bat

India have officially not named their captain for the T20WC, but on the back of Jay Shah’s announcement last month, it’s now pretty clear that Rohit Sharma will skipper India at the mega event in two months’ time.

Here’s the thing, though: it could get awkward if Rohit ends up having yet another underwhelming season with the bat. Rohit has averaged under 30 in the IPL for seven consecutive seasons now, and has been one of the most ineffective specialist batters in the competition. 

Should he end up having yet another middling season, his T20WC selection will become a hot topic of discussion.  

It’s worth remembering that Rohit kept Shubman Gill out of the XI when India fielded a semi-full-strength batting unit in the T20Is against Afghanistan in January. 

It’ll be hard to justify picking Rohit over Gill, the orange cap winner in IPL 2023, if the veteran fails to deliver for the eighth season in a row. 

The management will be hoping for Rohit to fire with the bat, for it’ll help them avoid having some uncomfortable conversations. 

Hardik Pandya’s strike rate in the death overs

In his IPL career, Hardik Pandya has managed to score 340+ runs in a season thrice — two of these instances have come since 2022, during his stint with the Gujarat Titans. Essentially, Hardik the batter, of late, has turned into an extremely reliable run-getter/anchor. 

That’s great news, for it shows Hardik has evolved as a batter, but come IPL 2024, it’s not the right-hander’s run-tally that the Indian management will be keeping a close eye on. Rather, with Pandya likely to play the finisher role for the side, it’ll be his strike rate (specifically, his strike rate at the death) that the management will be following with close interest.

Across IPL 2022 & 2023, Pandya averaged 37.86 but his strike rate was just 133.5. Granted it was because he batted in the Top 4, but even then, he struggled to accelerate at the death: across the last two seasons, his SR in the death overs (16-20) was 154.81.

154.81 might seem decent on paper, but it was the second-lowest SR among all batters who scored at least 200 runs in the death overs across IPL 2022 and IPL 2023. 

The management will also likely be keeping an eye on Pandya’s six-hitting in IPL 2024. Pandya hit 54 sixes across IPL 2019 and 2020 but this figure dropped down to 30 across IPL 2021, 2022 & 2023. In the last two seasons, he hit just 9 sixes in the 16-20 phase in total — which is the lowest among all batters who faced 100+ balls in the phase. 

These numbers won’t cut it at the T20WC if he’s going to play as a finisher for the side. 

The Kuldeep vs Bishnoi battle

India are spoiled for choices when it comes to wrist-spinners, but it’s now pretty clear that Kuldeep Yadav and Ravi Bishnoi are the two front-runners for the sole wrist-spinner’s spot in the starting XI.

Right now, Kuldeep, who is flying high with confidence, is the incumbent, but Bishnoi could put himself right in the mix with a stellar showing. 

At the same time, Bishnoi will have to be careful. Thanks to his experience, Kuldeep might still make it to the squad even if he has a middling season but the same cannot be said for Bishnoi. With Yuzvendra Chahal lurking, always there and thereabouts, a poor IPL 2024 could end up costing the young leggie a place in the T20WC squad.

Thanks to competition being cut-throat in Indian cricket, there is no space for slip ups, especially right before a mega event like the T20WC.

Ravindra Jadeja — is he a sure-shot starter at No.7?

Ravindra Jadeja has played just 2 T20Is since August 2022, but, against South Africa in December, the Indian management made it clear that he’s very much in their plans as a starter, by naming him vice-captain for the three-match T20I series.

Rahul Dravid, Ajit Agarkar and others will probably use IPL 2024 to finalize their first choice No.7. Experience and reputation wise, Jadeja probably pips Axar Patel but the latter has performed sensationally whenever he’s turned up for India recently. 

Since the start of 2023, Axar has played 15 T20Is and taken 15 wickets at an E.R of 6.75. This is just with the ball. On top of this, he’s scored 190 runs @ 27.14 and 157.02 with the bat, playing countless invaluable cameos. Recent form wise, Axar unquestionably can claim that he deserves the No.7 spot over Jadeja.

Jadeja’s bowling will always come clutch in the big moments, so it’s his batting that the management will likely be monitoring closely in IPL 2024. 

He pulled off a sensational heist in the final last year, but still had a pretty underwhelming season with the bat, striking at just 142.86 despite being a finisher. In fact, across the last two seasons, among all batters who have scored 200+ runs at the death, Jadeja’s SR of 148.8 is the worst. 

So despite his reputation, Jadeja might still be playing for his spot in the national side, come IPL 2024. 

Battle for the third seamer spot in the XI/squad

Jasprit Bumrah is a lock. Mohammed Siraj is close to being a lock. 

Arshdeep Singh and Mukesh Kumar are front-runners for the third seamer spot in the squad/starting XI, but the slot is still open; bowlers could still force their way in with a spectacular season.

Rest assured the management will be closely following the performances of Arshdeep, Mukesh, Avesh Khan, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar & Harshal Patel among others.

For all we know, the ones who can bat — the likes of Chahar and Shardul —  might just have a slight edge, as the management have been open about wanting to have decent batting depth.

Form & consistency of some of the younger players/fringe players

Having a long IPL season just before the T20WC can be a bane in a way, for it means that you will find yourself in a very precarious position if you lose form during the tournament. 

The likes of Rinku Singh, Tilak Varma, Shivam Dube etc enjoyed outstanding IPL campaigns in 2023, and have since impressed in Indian colours too, but they’ll need to ensure that they keep their form up in order to not give the management any reason to doubt picking them in the squad. 

Second season syndrome is real. Third season syndrome too.

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