Should the non-performers in IPL's UAE leg be axed? asks Harish Kotian.
The second leg of IPL 2021 in the UAE has given the Indian selectors a lot to think about ahead of the T20 World Cup.
The 15-member Indian team for the T20 World Cup was announced on September 8, 11 days prior to the start of IPL 2021 in the UAE. However, some of the players picked have been a complete let down during the UAE leg.
With the teams having the option to make changes in the World Cup squad by October 10, there are calls from various quarters to reward the top performers in the IPL with a call up to the World Cup team as the tournament will also be held on the same pitches in the UAE.
Rahul Chahar's inclusion ahead of Yuzvendra Chahal raised many eyebrows, but he hasn't been able to justify his inclusion. In fact, the leg-spinner has even been dropped by Mumbai Indians, after managing just two wickets in the four games played in the UAE, while giving away runs at an economy rate of more than seven.
On the other hand, Chahal has been in red hot form with the ball for Royal Challengers Bangalore. He has adjusted quite well to the conditions in the UAE, picking up 11 wickets in six games, to prove why the selectors were wrong in leaving him out.
Shikhar Dhawan was given 'rest' as per Chairman of Selectors Chetan Sharma despite scoring 501 runs in IPL 2021, but the Mumbai Indians duo of Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav, who were picked, have struggled to cope on the tough wickets in the UAE.
Suryakumar has struggled big time with 68 runs in six matches, while Kishan was dropped after failing in the first three games in the UAE before he bounced back with a blistering 50 not out from 25 balls against the Rajasthan Royals.
Sunil Gavaskar was unhappy with Suryakumar and Kishan's approach with the bat. 'I think it looks to me like Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan have just relaxed a little bit after getting the India cap. They might not have, but some of the shots they are playing -- it looks like they are trying to play these big shots just because they are India players,' Gavaskar said.
It would be hard to ignore Ruturaj Gaikwad's sensational showing with the bat in this year's IPL. He has scored 533 runs in 14 games for Chennai Super Kings, at a strike rate of 137, including three fifties and a century.
The young opener has been quite consistent in the UAE leg with scores of 88 not out, 38, 40, 45, 101 not out and 13.
It would be better to go in with a confident Dhawan and an in-form Gaikwad in place of the struggling Suryakumar and Kishan for a high-profile tournament like the World Cup.
Hardik Pandya's selection has given rise to more questions than answers. Chief Selector Sharma had confirmed that Hardik was fit enough to bowl in every match for India for the World Cup. But given the fact that he is yet to bowl for the Mumbai Indians in the UAE leg, many doubt if he has regained full bowling fitness, two years after undergoing back surgery in the UK.
'Hardik Pandya is absolutely fit and he will bowl his quota of overs in every match,' Chetan Sharma had said after picking the World Cup team.
Mumbai Indians Coach Mahela Jayawardene had said the team is in no hurry to force Hardik into bowling in the IPL, as the all-rounder might 'struggle' if pushed hard, which could jeopardise his outing in the T20 World Cup.
If there are any doubts after Hardik's fitness then the selectors must consider bringing in Kolkata Knight Riders all-rounder Venkatesh Iyer, who has been devastating with the bat in the UAE, while also being capable of bowling medium pace with clever change of pace.
India have gone into the World Cup with only three fast bowlers: Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. But with doubts about Hardik's fitness, former chairman of selectors M S K Prasad believes the Indians are a fast bowler short.
'It is a decent squad, but I feel that they are one fast bowler short actually... because we are playing majority of the matches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, so may be one more fast bowler could have been handy,' Prasad said.
'Had we played more matches in Sharjah, this was okay; but one fast bowler could have (been there), more importantly, with Hardik not bowling I think it is a little cause of concern,' Prasad added.
RCB's Harshal Patel is another hot contender to make it to the World Cup in case the selectors opt for changes. He is the highest wicket-taker in this year's IPL with 29 wickets from 13 games, including a hat-trick.
Patel has been quite effective in the UAE, with 12 wickets from six games and has been Captain Virat Kohli's go-to-bowler every time he needs a breakthrough.
With Bhuvneshwar struggling to find his best form with just three wickets in six games in the UAE, at an economy rate of above eight, India should to look at other options.
Fast bowler Avesh Khan, who is in smashing form for Delhi Capitals, with 22 wickets, along with Punjab Kings young left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh and Chennai Super Kings Shardul Thakur, both with 18 wickets each, could be in the reckoning in the bowling department.
What changes do you think the selectors should make for the T20 World Cup?
Should the non-performers in IPL's UAE leg be axed?
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India's current squad for T20 World Cup: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, K L Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Rahul Chahar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Varun Chakravarthy, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami.
Our suggested squad for T20 World Cup: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, K L Rahul (wicket-keeper), Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Ruturaj Gaekwad, Venkatesh Iyer, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Varun Chakravarthy, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel.