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Key takeaways from India’s squad for the South Africa T20Is

Last updated on 22 May 2022 | 08:21 PM
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Key takeaways from India’s squad for the South Africa T20Is

We try to make sense of the omission of Rahul Tripathi, among other things

The management are keen on pushing batters who can bowlDespite arguably proving to be the best No.3 in IPL 2022, Rahul Tripathi has not made the squad for the five-match T20I series against South Africa. Tripathi has all the reason in the world to feel hard done by, for all after all, in IPL 2022, he did everything he possibly could to warrant a national call-up: 400+ runs at a strike rate of nearly 160, carrying a largely dysfunctional SRH batting line-up. That he hasn’t even made the squad in the absence of both Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav is a shocker, indeed.

The only logical explanation for Tripathi’s exclusion seems to be that the management are actively pushing batters who can bowl. None of Deepak Hooda, Venkatesh Iyer and Hardik Pandya have had an IPL 2022 as good as Tripathi (Hooda has been outstanding, but Tripathi has still bettered him), but all three can bowl. And maybe with the middle-order core comprising pure batters who do not bowl — Kohli, Suryakumar, Shreyas Iyer etc — the management are keen to integrate those who can provide the team an extra dimension with the ball. 

Even then, the decision to leave out Tripathi for a series like this, in the form he is in, seems unjustifiable.

There is clear consistency in selection (at least if your name is not Samson) 

As tempting as it would have been for the management to pick only the in-form players — those who’ve enjoyed a very good IPL — it does seem like they’re keen on giving an extended run to the already-identified core.

The likes of Arshdeep Singh, Umran Malik, Kuldeep Yadav and Dinesh Karthik have all been rightly and deservedly handed a call-up for their IPL exploits, but the management have also opted to retain players such as Venkatesh Iyer, Ishan Kishan, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Ravi Bishnoi.

None of the aforementioned four incumbents enjoyed good IPL seasons, but they find themselves in the squad owing to at least one of the two following reasons: one, for being a part of the core that was identified post the T20 World Cup in UAE and two, for their exploits in the previous stretch of matches for the national team (vs New Zealand, West Indies and Sri Lanka).

In terms of consistency of selection, it is certainly a welcome change. 

Understanding the pecking order of the spinnersWhen it comes to the pecking order of spinners, it looks almost certain at this point that Yuzvendra Chahal is going to be leading the pack come the T20 World Cup. But what about the others? Here’s what we have inferred:

Kuldeep Yadav: Has stormed back into contention for being a potential T20WC Wild Card pick. Now that Kuldeep seems to have regained his confidence, perhaps the management feel that he could be a handful in Australia, where the boundaries are humongous. 

Rahul Chahar: For the time being, Chahar looks to be out of contention for the T20 World Cup. The dip in form in the second half of IPL 2022 has done his chances no good.

Ravi Bishnoi: Definitely not first choice. Going forward, might be in fight with Kuldeep to seal the second wrist-spinner spot in the T20 World Cup squad. 

Varun Chakravarthy: The Tamil Nadu man seems to have all but bowled himself out of contention for the T20 World Cup. With his fitness being an added concern, it is hard to see Chakravarthy making a miraculous comeback to the squad prior to the World Cup.

Ravichandran Ashwin: One can only speculate, but Ashwin looks like he’s been rested rather than dropped. After impressing in both the T20WC 2021 and in the home series against New Zealand, and having enjoyed a stellar IPL 2022 with both bat and ball, it seems highly unlikely that the management will move away from him abruptly, that too in a World Cup year.

Washington Sundar: Having endured an IPL 2022 to forget, Sundar’s immediate future looks uncertain. It can be said that no longer looks like he’s a certainty to make the World Cup squad, even if he is fully fit.

Axar Patel: Primarily a Jadeja back-up, but Axar looks like he has leapfrogged Sundar in the pecking order. 

Understanding the pecking order of the fast bowlersBhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel are all locks for the T20 World Cup. But what about the rest? We’ve inferred the following:

Mohammed Shami: The suspicion is that Shami might have been ‘rested’ instead of dropped, due to being a part of the Test squad. Because why would you not pick him after the kind of IPL he’s had, especially as a powerplay bowler? That being said, Shami’s case is a bit different from Ashwin. He didn’t feature in any of the T20Is post the T20WC in UAE, and there’s been no substantial evidence that suggests that the management see him as a potential T20WC pick. 

Mohammed Siraj: Again, we can only speculate, but Siraj looks like he might have bowled himself out of T20WC contention. Siraj didn’t anyway start the games against Sri Lanka and West Indies, and now on the back of the horror IPL he’s had, it looks like the right-armer might have fallen well behind in the pecking order.

Avesh Khan: Avesh is right in the mix. Little surprise, given the package he offers — a quick, hit-the-deck bowler who is also a weapon at the death; ideal for Australian conditions.

Arshdeep Singh: On the back of his stunning showing in IPL 2022, Arshdeep looks like he’s leapfrogged T Natarajan to become the first left-armer in the pecking order. 

Shardul Thakur: Shardul, in a way, seems to be in the same boat as Washington Sundar. The right-armer, who has played just the solitary T20I in the past 18 months, might have hurt his T20 World Cup chances through a forgettable IPL. A big chance missed, it has to be said, given the injury to Deepak Chahar. 

Umran Malik: As things stand, the truth is we do not know if the management have picked Umran Malik because they see him as a weapon in Australian conditions, or because they simply want him to spend more time with the national team to fast-track his progress. But what’s evident is that he’s already being noticed in a big way. First the India ‘A’ call-up and now this, an immediate national call-up. 

The curious case of Sanju Samson

“To this day I guess I’ll never know, just why they let me go.”

Don’t be surprised if Sanju Samson is out there somewhere, belting out the line above from Iron Maiden’s ‘Dance of Death’.

Why has he not found a place in the squad? Nobody knows. 

Around this time last year, Samson was being criticized for being ‘inconsistent’, and he proved his critics wrong in IPL 2021 by having an impressive 484-run season. Ahead of this ongoing season, many feared that he might become an anchor due to the pressure of captaincy, but he’s continued to play knocks of impact. Vintage Sanju knocks, you could say.  

It is worth remembering that Samson also fared well in the T20Is against Sri Lanka prior to the IPL.

And yet, despite ticking nearly every box, he does not find a place in the squad. When it comes to Samson’s omission, the management have a lot of explaining to do. 

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