Sept 14, 2022: If India’s dismal showing at the Asia Cup is any indication, their chances of winning the T-20 World Cup can be straightaway ruled out. But then whoever thought that Sri Lanka would win the competition? That’s the unpredictable nature of the format in which there can be no clear favourites. One good day at the office could make the team’s fortunes rise and one bad day could well start a slide. It is one format in which rankings do not count for much. At the Asia Cup, Sri Lanka ranked 8th, defeated Pakistan ranked 4th in the final while top ranked India fell by the wayside. The most significant stat to drive home this point is that in seven World Cup competitions six teams have won the trophy with only West Indies lifting it twice.
A good start though has been made with the selectors picking a team with few surprises. There is no dearth of talent in India especially when it comes to the limited overs game and it is not easy being a selector for there is truly an embarrassment of riches around. Obviously, a few players will be disappointed at being left out but only 15 can be chosen and they can take heart from the fact that they are likely to be part of the Indian team again.
Certainly the squad compares favourably with the teams of the other countries and as I said given the format almost every side has an equal chance of emerging triumphant. The only real question mark would appear to be over the non-inclusion of Mohammed Shami who is listed among the four standbys who will also travel to Australia. The pacer’s skill and experience cannot be questioned but there is a feeling that he is now becoming a Test specialist. Certainly his stats in the traditional format – 216 wickets from 60 matches – are far better than his T-20 figures – 18 wickets from 17 games. Shami has proved to be a handful in ODIs too but there is the tendency to pick a younger man when it comes to the shortest format and this is where the 32-year-old just misses out.
The side is well served in the pace department (Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh and Harshal Patel) and in the spin department (Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal) with Patel getting his chance because of the injury to Ravindra Jadeja. Hardik Pandya is the all-rounder and as such a key member of the squad. The choice of two wicket keepers in Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik may appear redundant but both are actually there because they can be pretty destructive with the bat. The five batsmen – skipper Rohit Sharma, his deputy KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav and Deepak Hooda are automatic choices. Indeed, the tour selection committee could well find it tough to pick the playing eleven for each game.
Along with Shami, Ravi Bishnoi, Shreyas Iyer and Deepak Chahar are the other standbys and it will be good to have them around if there are injury or indisposition issues. That a quartet of players with a proven record just missed making the main squad is again an indication of the bench strength available in Indian cricket at the moment.
Ever since their surprise triumph in the inaugural T-20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007 India have flattered only to deceive, their best being the runner-up berth in 2014 when they went down to Sri Lanka. Can Rohit and his men finally bring the trophy home again? As I said their chances are as good as almost any other team in the competition. After all they are still the No 1 ranked side in the format however unpredictable it is.
(Partab Ramchand is a veteran sports journalist, the views expressed here are personal.)