BCCI Chairman of Selectors Chetan Sharma confirmed that Virat Kohli hasn't been picked as "an opener" in the Indian squad for the 2021 T20 World Cup. The Indian skipper opened the innings alongside Rohit Sharma in the fifth and final T20I against England in March and put on 94 runs. Kohli later said that he would "like to partner Rohit" at the top going forward but Chetan Sharma said they have only picked "three openers" - Rohit, KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan in the 15-man squad.
Kishan was picked over Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw and Shreyas Iyer (standby) because of his versatility. The left-handed dasher from Jharkhand can bat anywhere in the batting order and will also serve as wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant's backup. Kishan made his T20I debut against England earlier this year and smoked 56 off 32 deliveries. Meanwhile, Iyer sustained a shoulder injury during the ODI series against England and hasn't played any international cricket since then. The right-hander from Mumbai has now successfully recovered and will feature in the second half of the IPL.
"If the management thinks that Virat should be played as an opener depending on the situation, then it's up to them ... What the circumstances are during the tournament that only till will tell but at this time, we only have the three openers I named," said Chetan Sharma.
"Ishan Kishan can bat as an opener as well as fit in as a middle-order batsman. He gave us a lot of options as a player. He's already opened in the ODI format and even got a fifty in the first game. He's also a good player of spin in the middle order. Also, a left-hander is important. When legspinners from different countries come at us, someone explosive like Ishan is important. That's why Ishan made the cut.
"When it comes to Shreyas Iyer, when a player stays away from the game for a long period, the selectors have their reservations, that is why he has been named in the standby list. He will get chances in the IPL, his fitness can be looked at and that is why we have named him in the standby list."
India have gone with only four seamers (including Hardik Pandya) but have included five spinners in their squad. "Considering the wickets we could get, where only two fast bowlers play, there's no point taking someone to warm the bench. It was better to take utility players who can come in handy. We did discuss T Natarajan's name but he hasn't played cricket for long and he's also been on the injury list, so we stuck to the main guys who are our strike bowlers," he said.
"There's always an intention to have some variation but because of the wickets that are expected, we decided on three fast bowlers with Hardik Pandya as the fourth bowler. In that case, it was difficult to include a left-arm fast bowler. Hardik is absolutely fit and he's going to bowl his quota of overs in every match. We didn't bowl him very often because we were saving him for the World Cup."
R Ashwin has been included in the squad in the absence of injured Washington Sundar. The offspinner last played a T20I in 2017 against West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. Ravindra Jadeja, Rahul Chahar, Axar Patel and Varun Chakravarthy are the other four spinners, while Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Krunal Pandya were left out.
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"Ravichandran Ashwin has been playing in the IPL regularly. He has performed well there. When you go into the World Cup, you need an off-spinner, everyone has an idea that the wickets in the UAE will get slower as IPL will also be played there. Spinners will get assistance so having an off-spinner holds the key. Washington Sundar is injured and Ashwin is an asset for the team. He has performed well in the IPL so that is why he has found a place for himself in the squad," said Chetan Sharma.
Talking about Chahal's omission, the 55-year-old said: "You want a spinner who can deliver with more speed. Recently we have seen Rahul Chahar bowling with speed. Our view was we need a spinner who can find the grip off the surface at a quicker speed and while we had a lot of discussion on Chahal, we eventually went with Rahul Chahar. Varun is the mystery bowler and teams are not able to read him. He has bowled well in IPL and he will be a surprise package."
The T20 World Cup is set to begin on October 17, two days after the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 final, starting with the qualifying matches. But the Super 12 stage will only commence from October 23 with the match between Australia and South Africa in Abu Dhabi.