Yuvraj Singh will look to make his mark in ICC World T20 2014 © PTI
By Abhijit Banare
Just a day before the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction, the selectors have decided to announce the squad for the marquee tournament preceding the IPL — ICC World T20 2014, which starts in March. To give a brief recap, India last played a Twenty20 International (T20I) match on October 10, 2013. For a country where the T20 format is a huge hit thanks to IPL has played only one T20 game in the year. And ahead of the World Cup, one wonders whether selectors had enough records to look at the performances. The core team of the squad remains the same.
MS Dhoni (c&wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Stuart Binny, Amit Mishra, Mohit Sharma, Varun Aaron
Going by T20 standards, Indians have one of the most explosive top three currently. With Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma followed by Virat Kohli, there is absolutely no worries for captain cool MS Dhoni. While Rohit and Dhawan have struggled with their form in recent matches, they will be back in their comfort zone of a subcontinent pitch, where the bounce is low and the ball comes onto the bat nicely. The duo have already shown what they are capable of when Rohit smashed a double hundred and Dhawan looked invincible since the ICC Champions Trophy 2013. With Kohli to follow, the top-order is stable for the Indians. And not to forget, the Indians will have enough practice with the Asia Cup being played just before the coveted tournament in Bangladesh.
Suresh Raina can be a valuable asset in the shortest format of the game © Getty Images
Selectors right in retaining Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina?
The biggest gamble undoubtedly remains the inclusion of two southpaws, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh. Both have been excluded from the 50-over format for the Asia Cup. But the fact that they will play the World Cup means the selectors still feel that when it comes to the shortest format of the game, these two are valuable assets for the team. The selectors have taken the right step in retaining the duo. If we look at the ODI format, there is a Cheteshwar Pujara who can steady the innings, there is an Ambati Rayudu who too has proved his ability to be effective in the ODIs. But Pujara is certainly not the best fit for T20 format yet. And taking a chance with Rayudu would be too risky as an early failure puts a lot of doubt in Dhoni’s mind. And not to forget that Yuvraj still holds value with his bowling along with his aggressive batting.
Stuart Binny can turn out to an effective all-rounder for India © PTI
Plenty of all-rounders to pick from; Stuart Binny can prove his value
For long, India have cribbed about lacking a genuine all-rounder. But the T20 squad (also the Asia Cup one) gives Dhoni many options to choose from. The recent five-match ODI series against New Zealand has proved that Ravichandran Ashwin is a reliable all-rounder. With Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin, India can go ahead with the regular options. But here’s why Stuart Binny is important. Yuvraj, Ashwin and Jadeja are all spin bowlers. But Binny can be an effective medium pace bowling option. Though he was under-utilised in the only ODI he played for India, the selectors are looking at Binny as a long-term all-round prospect. And considering the present situation, even if Yuvraj fails, Dhoni can quickly switch his selection to Binny. It looks like a flexible middle-order with plenty of bowling options to choose from.
And as always, Dhoni and his bulky bat is forever there for India’s rescue in the limited overs format.
Raw pace attack?
Here’s where the chink in the armour lies. While India have been known for their poor pace attack, but the squad might just be lacking one pacer. If we look at the present attack, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami are certain to lead the pace attack. But Varun Aaron and Mohit Sharma are just not experienced enough. Mohit though, has given breakthroughs in IPL. H could be the frontrunner for the third pacer’s slot, but the risk of him going for runs looms large.
As always, even if the pacers have gone for runs, the batsmen have covered it up consistently, especially in high-scoring matches in the subcontinent. Overall, it’s a balanced squad and except for the pace attack, India have the team to be the champions.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)