In cricket’s brave new world, the T20I World Cup is closer than they appear, almost a ubiquitous presence that never leaves you. The end of one edition is just the beginning of preparation for the next one. There’s very little breathing space in this fast-paced format, where the form returns and disappears as frequently as a pale sun on a cloudy summer.
India’s preparation for the upcoming T20I World Cup began the day they lost to Pakistan in the last edition. They changed the captaincy and the coaching unit, tried to change the way they approach the T20, altered the bowling attack, did a plethora of experimentation, tested the talents stemming out of the IPL, and gave them a proper run of the game before arriving to any conclusion.
But for all the changes – some forced and some by choice- there’s a sameness in the current squad from the last year’s World Cup. Some pressing questions that arose after the crushing exit in the UAE still remain unsolved.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah are the only pacers who have managed to retain their places from the last year’s squad. While Bhuvneshwar has done well barring two games in Asia Cup, there’s no surety over Bumrah’s fitness yet.
Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Shami have been replaced by Harshal Patel and Arshdeep Singh. Harshal has also managed to force his way after a terrific season with Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, but for him to start the game, Arshdeep will have to warm the bench. And given how Arshdeep has performed of late, it’s not easy for anyone to replace him, let alone a bowler making a comeback after injury.
Yuzvendra Chahal and R Ashwin will handle the spin attack. While Ashwin played the last year’s World Cup too, Chahal had to make way for Varun Chakravarthy and Rahul Chahar. However, both Chakravarthy and Chahar have fallen out of favor.
Dinesh Karthik is set to become only the second cricketer from the squad to play both the 2007 and 2022 editions of the T20I World Cup. Karthik has had a prolific season with Royal Challengers Bangalore and did well for India as a finisher. Ishan Kishan, meanwhile, couldn’t make a cut this time, despite being the leading run-scorer for Mumbai Indians this season.
Kishan got numerous opportunities to further his claim, but his strike rate and consistency weren’t up to the mark, and the team had to drop him. Deepak Hooda, meanwhile, is going to play his first-ever World Cup. The injury of Ravindra Jadeja paved way for Axar Patel in the 15-member squad.
The topmost concern has to be the top order that has very similar skillsets, similar strengths, and almost similar weaknesses, which makes it easy for any other half-decent bowling attack to disintegrate them in the opening burst. Look no further than the Super 4 clash against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup. Virat Kohli was undone by a left-arm pacer, while KL Rahul fell prey to the spinners, introduced this early in the Powerplay solely to strangle the Indian top-order.
Last year, Shaheen Shah Afridi’s opening burst was enough to push India on the back foot. The absence of a left-handed batter in the top three makes them an easy target for the opposition. They tried Rishabh Pant as an opener for the few games but never persisted with him for long enough to arrive at any substantial conclusion. The top-order trio of Rohit, Rahul, and Kohli can easily walk into any team but individually, not as a group.
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