India vs West Indies 2019: India’s T20I squad an indication of 2020 T20 World Cup planning
Krunal Pandya, Manish Pandey, Rahul Chahar and Shreyas Iyer earned call-ups after success for India A.

In the hullabaloo over MS Dhoni‘s future, the absence of Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal, the ambiguity over Hardik Pandya and the inclusion of Kedar Jadhav, there was one aspect of the three India squads named on Sunday by the chief selector MSK Prasad in Mumbai that, by and large, did not create much of a ruckus: India‘s T20I outfit picked for three matches in the West Indies next month.

In the history of team selections for any international cricket team, there has never been one group of players selected by a designated committee that has not been criticised. Reactions to India’s Test and ODI squads for the tour of the West Indies have been opinionated, but in regards to the 15 picked for the three T20I matches that open the series – in Florida, then Providence – there has been hardly any response.

On Sunday, the first of three squads named by Prasad was India’s T20I one. Led by Virat Kohli, the 15-man squad comprised of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant, Krunal Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Rahul Chahar, Washington Sundar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar and Navdeep Saini.

(READ: MSK Prasad clarifies Mayank Agarwal’s omission from ODI squad)

CricketCountry has reliably learned that the selectors picked this squad keeping in mind the 2020 ICC T20 World Cup in Australia next October-November. There were no half-measures, and this is not a short-term selection for the immediate series in the West Indies. The players picked are contenders for T20I cricket’s showpiece championship, with a definite focus on youth.

Manish Pandey batting
India A captain Manish Pandey has earned a recall. (Image: windiescricket.com)

On paper, India’s latest T20I squad a pool of world-class players (Kohli, Rohit, Bhuvneshwar, Dhawan, Jadeja), blended with talent yet to wholly convince at the top (Rahul, Pandey, Pant), a crop of players who have played fleetingly for India (Iyer, Krunal, Washington, Khaleel, Deepak Chahar) and two uncapped names in Saini and Rahul Chahar.

(READ: What could India’s 2023 World Cup squad look like?)

From India’s previous T20I squad – the two games at home against Australia in February – there are several changes. Pandey and Iyer come in for the axed Dinesh Karthik and the recuperating Vijay Shankar. Bhuvneshwar takes Umesh Yadav’s place. With Hardik Pandya apparently rested over doubts over his fitness, the allrounder’s spot has opened up which went to Jadeja. Jasprit Bumrah being rested for the limited-overs leg of India’s tour is directly related to Khaleel getting a call-up. Siddharth Kaul has been swapped with Deepak Chahar. Mayank Markhande has made way for Rahul Chahar.

With Yuzvendra Chahal also rested, India’s selection panel recalled Washington, who has played seven T20Is. And with Dhoni not touring the West Indies, and Pant getting his first chance to keep wickets across formats in one series, the matter of the wicketkeeper is not alarming.

Rahul Chahar
Rahul Chahar earned his maiden India call-up for the T20Is. © AFP

Rahul Chahar, 19, played in 13 of Mumbai Indians’ 16 matches in IPL 2019 including the final versus Chennai Super Kings, in which he conceded just 14 runs from his four overs while dismissing Suresh Raina lbw for 8. The legspinner claimed 13 wickets in IPL 2019 at an economy of 6.55. Stacked up against the other successful spinners of the tournament, he falls behind Shreyas Gopal (20 wickets, economy 7.22) and Chahal (18 wickets, economy 7.82).

(READ: Who is Rahul Chahar?)

Rahul Chahar, ostensibly, has been picked given his economy rate during the IPL and his success for India A since then. In two first-class matches for India A against Sri Lanka A in May, he claimed 14 wickets. For India A in the ongoing series in the West Indies, he has taken two wickets in each of his three one-day matches. Reward, then, for doing well for India A.

Washington, by contrast, managed one wicket in five List A games for India A versus Sri Lanka A after the IPL, and on duty in the West Indies has claimed four wickets in three matches. His ten wickets for India in T20Is have come at 16.90 apiece with a very good economy rate of 6.03, so there is logic behind the selectors’ decision to name him for the upcoming series.

Bhuvneshwar getting another chance in T20I means he will be the leader of the bowling, with left-armer Khaleel getting a chance to revive his nascent India career. You can expect Krunal and Jadeja to duke it out for one spot, while and Iyer are probably chasing the No 4 spot. Pandey can slot in at No 6 as one of the finishers.

(READ: Shubman Gill will have to wait for his turn: MSK Prasad)

Could the India selectors have looked further into the future, and instead of Dhawan picked a younger batsman such as Gill?

Over the last 12 months, Dhawan have scored 333 runs in nine T20I innings at a strike-rate of 132.14. In this time, he has two fifties and two scores in the forties. In two innings in Australia last year, he hit 76 off 42 balls and 41 off 22. During the 2019 IPL, Dhawan top-scored for Delhi Capitals with 521 runs at 34.75 and a strike-rate of 135.67. No reason to discard him, but coming off an injury this was a good time for the selectors to perhaps let Dhawan ease back with the ODIs instead.

Selectors have often blooded young talent in the T20I format, and there is little doubt over Gill’s pedigree. An all-formats player, he is the future of India’s batting – despite looking a little out of depth in his two ODI chances in New Zealand this year – and his current form merited a look-in.

But that case aside, India’s T20I squad looks balanced and has rewarded success for  India A, which is the natural progression to get into the senior side. With Kohli surprisingly not sitting out this leg of the series in the West Indies, how the young players picked for this tour gel could be a handy reckoner ahead of the 2020 T20 World Cup.