Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Under MS Dhoni’s leadership, India won the inaugural edition of the ICC T20 World Cup in 2007 in South Africa. However, the Men in Blue didn’t have any good luck in the marquee event since then. They entered the summit clash of the mega competition in 2014 and bowed out of the competition from the last-four stage in 2016 and 2022. 

Considering that the marquee event in USA and West Indies could be the last for some of India’s biggest stars such as Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, the pressure to bring home the silverware will be on the squad when the tournament starts on June 1.

India squad and uncertain New York pitch

BCCI has already announced the Indian squad based on the performances in the first half of IPL and took the call to go in with safer selections instead of trying out something out of the box. India will play three out of their four group stage matches in New York and the pitch there is yet to be laid and its nature is still unclear. Considering that they need to be cautious about preparing for the challenge of the Americas, the largely predictable squad makes sense.

The 15-member squad comprises four specialist batters, two wicket-keeping batters, two seam-bowling all-rounders, two off-spin all-rounders, two wrist spinners and three specialist pacers. After the run-fests in the IPL, the focus in the World Cup will be mainly about skill than hitting. There will be fewer big scores and more balance between the bat and ball. 

Lack of clarity about openers

In the T20 format, Kohli has excelled as an opener, especially in recent IPL seasons. The star batter has been able to effectively exploit the early fielding restrictions. However, he hasn’t played a T20I match since India’s semi-final against England in the T20 World Cup in 2022. He normally bats at No 3 for India.

But there is a case to be made for him to open the innings for India too, especially as his strike-rate tends to rise as he goes deeper in the innings.

In Jaiswal, India have the chance of going in with a southpaw opener regardless of whether he bats with Kohli or Sharma at the top. His destructive nature in T20 cricketer will help India. However, opting for Jaiswal as the opening batter may require India to deploy Kohli in a less advantageous No 3 position after the powerplay overs.

Middle order woes

Kohli’s batting position will also influence whether India’s Mr 360 degree batter Suryakumar Yadav bats at No 3 or 4. Moreover, the biggest talking points to emerge out of the squad announcement have been about India’s selection of middle order batters that will follow Yadav. It must have posed a challenge to exclude Rinku Singh, given India’s requirement for a middle-to-lower-order batter who could accelerate the pace of the game, especially considering his past performances for India.

Hardik’s poor form

A pace-bowling all-rounder continues to be a luxury for India but the first-choice pace-bowling all-rounder Pandya hasn’t bowled as much and as regularly in the IPL as India may have liked. Additionally, both Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja have struggled to find their best hitting form, with Axar Patel getting very few opportunities to bat as well.

However, Shivam Dube’s batting form in the season has been a major reason for his selection. Dube’s capacity to dismantle spin bowling during the middle overs for the Chennai Super Kings throughout the last two IPL seasons, coupled with his enhanced performance against fast bowlers in 2024, rendered him a compelling choice for selection.

He hasn’t had much of a chance to bowl in the season due to the Impact Player. But if he is included in the Playing XI, he will be expected to bowl a few overs.

Lack of finishers

On finisher Rinku Singh’s exclusion, chief selector Agarkar said, “It’s probably the toughest thing we have had to discuss. He has done nothing wrong. It’s about combinations. There are a couple of wrist spinners included to give Rohit more options.”

The left-handed floater job that Rinku could have performed will be expected out of Rishabh Pant and Shivam Dube now.