T20 World Cup- Time for Indian selectors to think out of the box

T20 World Cup- Time for Indian selectors to think out of the box

The Indian squad for the T20 World Cup is expected to be announced soon. The 1st of May’24 deadline is just around the corner.

The IPL 24 and the performances in it, seem to be the selection criteria that will weigh the most in the final outcome of their decision. This has given a greater boost to the tournament, as every Indian player has only one thought in mind and that is to make an impact and be a part of the World Cup squad to the United States and the West Indies in June.

The Ajit Agarkar-led Indian selectors have a very difficult task at hand and a predicament that they would have gladly loved to avoid.

India has not won a major ICC World Cup tournament since 2013 and the task of selecting a side that will come back victorious in the T20 WC does weigh heavily on their shoulders.

The vast number of talented Indian cricketers is the envy of all the cricket-playing nations. Indian cricket seems to have a cupboard full of them.

The common thought and belief that arises amongst the lovers of the game is that India could in all formats of the game field 2 top level international quality sides. One wonders as to why then, India, for over a decade now, has nothing to show for it.

The Indian cricketers presently, whether domestic or international, are given the best of all facilities, equipment, exposure, experience and comfort.

The IPL gives them the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best. Even the Indian junior, senior and ‘A’ sides are sent overseas to get acquainted with the conditions over there. It is, therefore, quite bewildering as to what ails Indian cricket on the world stage.

The foremost thought that comes to mind is the "Fear of failure". The 1.4 billion followers is a wonderful feeling to bolster one's image, however, to live up to their expectations is what seems to have a tragic effect when things are not going their way.

The very carefree and fluent bunch of cricketers seem to wither away when most needed. The Indian side has had mental and performance-enhancing coaches, however, for some reason, they too have failed.

India, at the initial league stage of the all the ICC tournaments, has looked formidable and one that truly justifies their top-of-the-line ranking, however, it all falls apart during the final knock-out encounters. The T20 WC 2022 and the ODI WC 2023 are the two recent examples of India’s failures.

It was in the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007 when a young Indian side under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni won it for the first and last time.

The senior Indian cricketers, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble after a grueling England series decided to opt out to take a break and a young inexperienced side proved to be the success story for India.

The Indian selectors have a major dilemma to overcome. The T20 format is for the young and daring and the IPL’24 has shown that several of the young players in India are ready to step up to the next level.

The easiest way out would be for the selectors to go in for the tried and tested old cricketers. Naming Rohit Sharma as the captain way ahead of the tournament has already indicated their intentions of a safe approach.

One will most likely see an Indian T20 WC squad with all the old hands. Virat Kohli would quite understandably be there along with the likes of K.L. Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal and others who have played earlier. One wonders if this is an ideal time for the Indian selectors to make a complete turn-around and select some of the recently proven IPL youngsters.

Yashasvi Jaiswal, Rinku Singh, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shubman Gill, Riyan Parag, Sai Sudarshan, Shivam Dube, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhishek Sharma and Tilak Varma are a few who are definitely in the running. The challenge would be to induct as many of them into the squad.

The area that India looks a little vulnerable in is in the pace bowling department. Jasprit Bumrah, the best in the trade, is the only one that the Indian side can be certain of. Apart from the left-arm pacer T. Natarajan, the rest of the Indian pace bowling seems to lack the ability to bowl the yorker delivery effectively.

The IPL 2024 has shown that the approach to T20 cricket has changed significantly. The target of 200 runs was earlier one that would have given the side batting first a lot of comfort. This has now become par for the course, one that can be chased with sensible and aggressive batting.

The biggest change that has come about is the way the batters are approaching their innings from the very 1st ball that they face. Every ball for a batter desires to have a boundary and a dot ball has now become a priceless commodity.

Bowlers unfortunately are suffering the most. The earlier strategy of bamboozling the batter through a change of pace is no more that effective.

The batsmen seem to be waiting for the slower one, all ready to dispatch it for a six. Bowlers will now need to work on new ways to catch batters off guard. This can only be done in a bespoke fashion by strategizing a plan specific to each one.

The fielding and especially the catching have been the weak points of several teams in the IPL’24.

The selection of the Indian T20 World Cup side will need to take fielding as a serious criteria for selection. After all, a run saved is a run gained.

One hopes that the Indian selectors think out of the box, however, hope is like the clouds, some pass by and others bring rain!

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer. The views expressed are personal)