- BCCI publish 15-man T20 World Cup squad
- R Ashwin makes the squad, Chahal does not
- MS Dhoni named mentor for T20 World Cup
Fours years ago R Ashwin was discarded from India’s T20I set-up, however, he has now forced his way back in and has been named in the 15-man squad for the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup 2021.
In another surprise move, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has roped in former captain MS Dhoni as the team mentor specifically for this tournament. Dhoni, who retired from international cricket last August, was appointed to “provide support and direction” to the Indian team management led by head coach Ravi Shastri, said BCCI secretary Jay Shah.
The squad comprises of 15 players which include six specialist batters, three all rounders, three specialist spinners and three specialist fast bowlers.
The selection panel led by former Indian pacer Chetan Sharma also named the trio of Shreyas Iyer, Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur as reserves, who will act as injury or COVID-19 replacements.
There were many notable absentees from the 15-man squad including Shikhar Dhawan, who captained India in their short limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka recently, and lead legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal.
Instead, the selectors went to include the mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy and legspinner Rahul Chahar, who, along with Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan and Axar Patel are heading into their first World Cup.
BCCI announced the team for T20 World Cup is as follows: Virat Kohli (Capt), Rohit Sharma (vc), KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Rahul Chahar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Varun Chakravarthy, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohd Shami.
Standby players – Shreyas Iyer, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar.#TeamIndia— BCCI (@BCCI) September 8, 2021
The inclusion of two spin-bowling all rounders along with three specialist spinners make it crystal clear that the selectors as well as the team management expect the pitches in the United Aram Emirates (UAE) to be quite slow, especially after they take on the workload of 31 IPL matches.
This is also why only three frontline quicks are included in the team –Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami – have been picked, with Hardik Pandya as the seam-bowling allrounder.
On Wednesday, Sharma said “If the wickets are such that you can only play two fast men, there is no point then to the bench (the extra fast bowlers). Instead, you have utility players who will come in handy at some point in the match and that is why you have spinners and all rounders”.
Sharma said it in the first media briefing as the chairman of selectors.
The return of R Ashwin in the squad, whose last T20I was on the tour of the West Indies in July 2017, is significant given in 2019, Ashwin had noted that he was no slouch in white-ball cricket and it was a “perception” that wrist-spinners are better than finger-spinners, especially in the limited-overs format, that had kept him out of the Indian squad.
Since then, Ashwin has missed 63 T20Is for India but in that time he has continued to be a threat in the IPL, first for Punjab Kings and now for Delhi Capitals.
Sharma said, “When you got to a World Cup you need an offspinner.
“The wickets are likely to be low and slow as the IPL’s latter half will be played in the UAE and that will help the spinners. Washington Sundar is part of the injured list and Ashwin has been an asset for the team and the way he has performed in the IPL that is the reason he has found a place in the team.”
Talking about no Chahal in the team, Sharma indicated that the selectors found Rahul Chahar the better option as a lead legspinner.
He 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.”
Talking about Kishan, Sharma said, “Kishan can bat as an opener as well as he can fit into the middle order anytime.
“And a left-hand option is always important. If the opposition has legspinners then an explosive left-hander is always important. So Ishan Kishan is giving us a lot of opportunities: if we need an opener he can do that having already done that and got a fifty in his first game. In the middle-order he is a good player of spin.”
On Kohli being the opener for team India, Sharma said the selectors feel he is better as the pivot in the middle order.
“If the need of hour is that the management thinks that Virat should open then that is up to them, but for the moment we have three openers – Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan. Virat is an asset for the team. When he plays in the middle-order the team players around him.”
When he was asked why Dhawan did not make the cut, Sharma became a diplomat, who has been among the best batters in the last three IPLs, could not find a spot.
Sharma said, “He is a very important player for us. He was the captain in Sri Lanka. What discussion we had on him, I can’t disclose. But he is there in the loop. The need of the hour was that we wanted to look at other players while we give rest to Dhawan.”