Surprise picks: R Ashwin and Axar Patel
India have named five proper spinners in their squad. The likes of Ravindra Jadeja, Rahul Chahar and Varun Chakravarthy were always in contention, but the inclusion of Ashwin and Axar have surely raised some eyebrows for completely different reasons. Ashwin, who hasn't played a T20I since July 2017, has been included in place of Washington Sundar (injured). The 34-year-old has been a consistent performer in the IPL and is arguably the best off-spinner in the country at the moment.
On the other hand, Axar is a phenomenal white-ball player, but with Jadeja already in the squad, it's difficult to assume what his role would be. Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar have been named in the reserves but India could have easily gone with either of them in place of Axar.
Surprise omissions: Yuzvendra Chahal and Shikhar Dhawan
The leg-spinner from Haryana is India's leading wicket-taker in T20Is but still couldn't find a place in the squad filled with spinners. India instead decided to go with Rahul Chahar and you can't really blame them. Chahal hasn't been at his best in the last two-three years, while Chahar has slowly become a household name in the IPL. Since 2019, the latter has claimed 74 wickets in 59 T20s at an economy of 7.4, while Chahal has managed 75 scalps in 74 games at an economy of almost 8. Chetan Sharma, the chairman of selectors, later explained that they needed "a spinner who can deliver with more speed".
Chahal has struggled with his form but that's not the case with Dhawan. The left-handed opener has worked on his strike rate and has scored the second-most amount of runs in the IPL since 2020 after KL Rahul. In this period, Dhawan has slammed 998 runs in 25 innings at an impressive strike rate of 140.6. India have gone with the opening combination of KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma, while Ishan Kishan has been picked as their back-up. The only thing that went against Dhawan was Kishan is a lot more versatile. The left-hander from Jharkhand can bat anywhere in the batting order and can also keep wickets, if needed.
Surprise pick: Josh Inglis
The wicketkeeper-batsman has managed to leapfrog Alex Carey and Josh Philippe to win a spot in the Australian squad as the back-up gloveman to Matthew Wade. The 26-year-old, who is yet to make his international debut, will provide Australia that much-needed versatility. Inglis was impressive in the last edition of the BBL, smashing 425 runs in 16 innings at a strike rate of 140.
The right-hander was also the leading run-scorer in England's domestic T20 competition, The Vitality T20 blast, hammering 531 runs from 14 games at a strike rate of 175.82 for Leicestershire. On top of that, he also played a couple of superb innings in the inaugural edition of The Hundred. "He offers the squad flexibility in the batting order with his adaptability, counter-attacking ability and power striking," said chairman of selectors, George Bailey.
Surprise omissions: Alex Carey and Jhye Richardson
The selection of Inglis meant there was no spot for Carey, who has been touted as a future Australia captain in white-ball cricket. The wicketkeeper-batsman has already led Australia in three ODIs. "It's just based on performances. We want to be really distinct in separating one-day cricket and T20s," said Bailey about his exclusion. The left-hander averages over 36 in 45 ODIs but has managed only 233 runs in 38 T20Is at an average of just 11.09. Carey has done well in the BBL but hasn't managed to stamp his authority in T20Is.
Meanwhile, Richardson would consider himself unlucky to miss out on a spot. The tearaway paceman was the leading wicket-taker in the last season of BBL but Australia still went with the experienced quartet of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Kane Richardson.
Surprise pick: Keshav Maharaj
South Africa’s #1 spinner in Test cricket and the current stand-in captain of the ODI side, Keshav Maharaj was not close to being in the picture for the T20 World Cup, but on Thursday the left-armer found himself be called-up as a part of the main 15 despite being uncapped. He, in fact, leapfrogged incumbent George Linde, who looked like a sure-shot pick prior to the squad announcement.
Maharaj, to the world, is known as a Test specialist, but the 31-year-old has excellent T20 numbers. In 104 games he’s picked 83 wickets at a sublime ER of 6.62, and in the 2020/21 CSA T20 Challenge he claimed 8 wickets in 6 games at a remarkable ER of 4.54. The leadership and experience he brings to the table might have enticed the selectors, but given he was not even in consideration for T20Is, the left-armer is arguably the biggest surprise pick of the T20 World Cup.
Surprise omission: George Linde
Having featured in 15 of South Africa’s last 18 T20Is, and having done exceedingly well in those matches, George Linde was expected to be an automatic pick but the all-rounder could only make the reserves. Linde’s omission comes as a huge shock as he not only has been an integral part of the South African spin attack - alongside Shamsi - but has also been extremely tidy: in 14 matches he’s taken 15 wickets at an ER of 7.08, while bowling a majority of his overs inside the powerplay.
Linde’s exclusion is also a surprise because of the versatility he brings. He is someone who can give the ball a good whack, and it was only five months ago that he batted as high as No.3 for the Proteas. A three-dimensional player tailor-made for T20 cricket, Linde can consider himself really unlucky to have missed out.
Surprise pick: Chris Woakes
While it can be argued that Tymal Mills is the real ‘wildcard pick’ for the Three Lions, his inclusion doesn’t come as a huge surprise owing to two reasons: one, in the absence of Archer, England needed a like-for-like replacement, and two, even before The Hundred, skipper Eoin Morgan had talked up the 29-year-old as a potential candidate. After his stunning showing in the competition - 8 wickets @ ER 6.67 - he all but nailed the spot.
But Chris Woakes’ inclusion is surprising as he is someone who has played all of two T20Is for England in the last 5 years. He impressed against Sri Lanka in those two T20Is he played in June - 1/23 off 7 overs - but his call-up for that series felt more like a remorseful apology than an audition for a T20 World Cup squad. Perhaps with Archer gone, the Three Lions zeroed-in on Woakes as their go-to man in the powerplay for the T20WC. After all, he impressed in the first six overs in the first leg of IPL 2021, taking 3 wickets at an ER of 5.00.
Surprise omission: Matt Parkinson
Adil Rashid and Matt Parkinson wreaked havoc in the three T20Is versus Pakistan, and the way Parkinson operated, in particular, gave the impression that he could be their ‘secret weapon’ in UAE. Which is precisely why it is surprising that he has not even made the reserves, especially after having a stellar outing in The Hundred, where he picked 9 wickets at an ER of 6.99.
In that series against Pakistan, Rashid and Parkinson showed they could operate in tandem despite both being leggies, and with Moeen’s stocks also plummeting with the ball, it looked logical for England to lay their faith on the 24-year-old. But they haven’t, which means that the 2016 finalists have a sole specialist spinner in their squad.
Surprise pick: Mark Chapman
The 27-year-old middle-order batsman is the only real surprise inclusion in the New Zealand squad. Having played just 6 T20Is in the last three years, and having averaged a mere 20.00 in those matches, Chapman did not have a great case for selection. But he did well in the 2020/21 Super Smash for Auckland - 219 runs @ 43.80 - so perhaps that ended up working in his favour. He can roll his arm over too, but having bowled just 3 overs in international cricket in the last 5 years, it is unlikely that his bowling would have served as a ‘tick mark’ for his selection.
Surprise omissions: Adam Milne and Finn Allen
Some might view Colin Munro’s omission as a surprise but it really isn’t, with him having not played any international cricket in 18 months. But Milne not only came back into the scheme of things in the series against Bangladesh, but has, for a year now, dominated franchise cricket. The right-armer had an extremely encouraging outing in the 2020/21 Big Bash League and then landed an IPL contract with the champions. He even got a few nice words of recommendation from Shane Bond.
He was already in the midst of an outstanding Hundred season for Birmingham Season prior to the squad announcement - 8 wickets in 5 game at ER of 6.13 before the squad announcement - thus his omission is something that’s glaring. He still is in the squad as a ‘reserve’, however, so there might yet be a slim chance of Milne sneaking into the main team.
Given his hype, and the ludicrous numbers he's managed to put up in the shortest format, Finn Allen's omission is also a surprise, but there is logic to it. In Guptill, Williamson, Conway, Phillips and Seifert, New Zealand have a plethora of players who can bat at the top of the order, so they can be forgiven for overlooking Allen. It also goes without saying that the 22-year-old is highly inexperienced at the top level, and is yet to prove his credentials in challenging conditions. That said, perhaps they could have taken Allen with the squad as a reserve.
Surprise pick: Ravi Rampaul
Having played no international cricket in six years, Ravi Rampaul’s selection came as the biggest surprise when the Windies squad came out. But a quick glance at the ongoing CPL’s wicket-takers chart will go a long way in explaining his selection. The 36-year-old, at the time of writing this, is the highest wicket-taker in the competition, having taken 17 wickets in 8 games. He has taken at least 2 wickets in 6 of his last 7 games, a run that also includes a hat-trick of three-wicket hauls. With a purple patch like this, it is unsurprising why the Windies management were keen to gamble on the veteran. Particularly with not too many seamers knocking the door.
Surprise omission: Jason Holder
Having featured in 10 of West Indies’ 17 T20Is in 2021, Jason Holder has every right to be miffed at being left out of the 15-man squad for the T20 World Cup. And it’s not like he fared bad, either. Holder, in the matches he played this year, took 9 wickets in 7 innings at an ER of 7.24, while also averaging 30 with the bat. Given he did exceptionally well for SRH in the UAE in IPL 2020, his omission is particularly puzzling. Perhaps there is a case to be made for the former Test skipper to have slid into the squad just as a specialist bowler ahead of Oshane Thomas, who is, really, yet to impress or prove himself at any level.
Surprise pick: Asif Ali
The non-selection for the England and West Indies tours gave the impression that Pakistan had finally moved on from Asif Ali, but the right-hander rather surprisingly made the final 15 ahead of players like Shoaib Malik and Fakhar Zaman. Having averaged 8.91 across his last 13 T20Is, at a SR of 100.0, it is fair to say that the selection of Ali is a mere gamble based on potential. And although the selection is controversial, a glance at his overall T20 SR (147.02 in 203 matches) is enough to understand why the selectors did what they did. Ali fared well in PSL 2021, too, scoring 224 runs at a SR of 167.16, so his is a selection based on what he ‘could’ achieve for Pakistan, not what he ‘has’.
Surprise omissions: Fakhar Zaman and Usman Qadir
Pakistan struggled to find the right ‘role’ for Fakhar Zaman post the dawn of the Babar-Rizwan partnership up top, but his exclusion comes as a shock given he’s played 13/17 T20Is for the country in 2021. Zaman, this year, did not score the amount of runs he’d have liked to, but the southpaw nevertheless played many a valuable cameo, with his SR of 147.58 serving as a testament to his changed approach. Seeing Asif Ali leapfrog him would be a better pill to swallow for the 31-year-old.
With all of Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz and Imad Wasim being defensive options, Usman Qadir’s snub comes as a surprise. An attacking option with the ball, Qadir, much like Parkinson, has shown that he can co-exist in the side with another leggie, due to his largely attacking nature. Given Qadir has an exceptional T20I record in the sub-continent - 12 wickets in 6 games at ER 6.18 - his exclusion from the main 15 comes as a big surprise, not least because of a paucity of aggressive spinners in Pakistan.
Surprise picks: Hamid Hassan, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran and Mohammad Shahzad
The selections of Hamid Hassan, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran and Mohammad Shahzad belie logic and belief, and it is reportedly one of the reasons which forced Rashid Khan to hand in his resignation. Whether the aforementioned senior quartet are Afghanistan’s ‘secret weapons’ remains to be seen, but with Hassan, Dawlat, Shapoor and Shahzad not having played any T20I cricket in 5, 1, 2 and 3 years respectively, it is hard to justify or understand how the four members made the cut for the T20 World Cup.