Four Wisden writers pick their 22-member India squads for the 2021 T20 World Cup, realising all through that the selectors will have a splitting headache when actually choosing the side.
It was by no means an easy task, and the writers made it known while selecting their sides. But hey, you can’t please everyone, and some really big names miss out from each of the squads. The contingent has been divided into three sections: a first-choice XI, four bench players, and a further seven as reserves, according to ICC’s updated Covid-19 regulations.
Yas Rana, wisden.com head of content
Team: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah
Others: KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Varun Chakravarthy, Deepak Chahar
Reserves: Shreyas Iyer, Rahul Chahar, Ishan Kishan, Krunal Pandya, Shardul Thakur, T Natarajan, Avesh Khan
This was a painful exercise. There are players who haven’t made my touring group that have very fair claims for spots in the starting XI; India are surely the only team in the world with that ‘problem’.
Dhawan pips the army of excellent opening candidates to join Rohit and Kohli in the top three on account of his sustained excellence in the IPL – that has seen him score quicker than he’s ever done before – and his extensive experience, and success, at global events.
I’m a little concerned by the absence of a mystery spinner in the first XI. I’d be tempted to include either Chakravarthy or Rahul Chahar at the expense of Washington, even if it would weaken the batting.
India possess an absurd depth of batting talent but an injury to either Bumrah, Jadeja or Hardik would still leave them slightly exposed.
Ben Gardner, wisden.com managing editor
Team: Prithvi Shaw, Virat Kohli (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan (wk), Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah
Others: Rohit Sharma, Sanju Samson, Deepak Chahar, Varun Chakravarthy
Back-ups: Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, Rahul Chahar, Avesh Khan, Rahul Tewatia, R Ashwin
God this is tough. It’s incredible that openers of the quality of Mayank Agarwal and Devdutt Padikkal don’t get a look in, and there are plenty of seamers and spinners missing out, far too many to mention. Let’s talk about those who did get in instead. In my playing XI, the main surprise would be Prithvi Shaw opening, and I admit this is a long shot. But the youngster is as talented as any India have produced, and importantly, he knows it. Even more importantly, he’s now started to churn out the consistent, rapid scores that his ability deserves. I don’t think anyone is more adept at making the most of the fielding restrictions, either on the ground or in the air.
That means Rohit Sharma doesn’t make the XI, and I’m already starting to regret it. The other big omission is KL Rahul, relegated to the back-ups. I can already see him Ajinkya Rahaneing India to another semi-final exit, and that must be avoided if at all possible.
Onto the rest of the squad, and the main issue is the lack of all-rounders, though if Hardik Pandya can’t bowl, India should still have enough in their five front-liners to get through it. Varun Chakravarthy’s mystery spin could just be the perfect weapon to unleash on an unprepared side in a big game. Hopefully, the backups are mostly uncontroversial, with R Ashwin included as much for the video diaries as for his standing as still one of the best T20 cricketers in India.
Aadya Sharma, Wisden India editor
Team: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah
Others: Mohammed Shami, Rahul Chahar, Shreyas Iyer, Shardul Thakur
Back-ups: KL Rahul, Ishan Kishan, Mohammed Siraj, Varun Chakravarthy, Krunal Pandya, Axar Patel, T Natarajan
Choosing India’s cabinet ministry might be easier. With a plethora of options for each role, mine is a fairly conservative XI, built around proven players with little experimentation. KL Rahul is a big miss if you’re on an IPL fan; unfortunately, there’s no place for his measured strokeplay in this top order. The Dhawan-Rohit partnership might be on its last legs, but Dhawan’s revamped approach is too good to miss, and Rohit can go really big on his day (also, left-right).
Kohli at three is followed by Suryakumar Yadav’s inventiveness, with a trio of power-hitters to follow. It might seem like a ‘safe’ XI, but in a tournament like the T20 World Cup, there’s little room for experimentation, and a solid top order is likely to see the middle-order hitters strike with freedom, and vice-versa.
In the bowling, Chahar and Sundar can be instrumental in dictating how the powerplay plays out, while Jadeja is expected to choke batsmen in the middle overs. To top it off is Bhuvneshwar, who was mightily impressive in the recent England series, and will be a great bet to have at the death alongside Bumrah. On the bench, Shami and Thakur can easily replace one of the seamers, Iyer is a like-for-like replacement for a yet untested Suryakumar, whereas Rahul Chahar could be a surprise option further into the competition.
Rohit Sankar, Wisden India staff writer
Team: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Chakravarthy, Jasprit Bumrah
Others: Shardul Thakur, KL Rahul, Rahul Chahar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Back-ups: Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson, Dinesh Karthik, Washington Sundar, Avesh Khan, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shreyas Iyer
A large chunk of the team picks itself given that there’s room for seven extra players this time. Avesh Khan’s incredible IPL season means that he pips T Natarajan to the extra death bowler slot in 22-man team. But Mohammed Shami, who has proven to be versatile across phases in the last two seasons, should edge him in the XI. Varun Chakravarthy adds a bit of mystery to the spin department that has appeared rather suspect in recent times.
Bhuvneshwar’s excellent England series was followed by a mediocre IPL, and unless he can turn things around on the Sri Lankan tour dramatically, Deepak Chahar should make it to the starting XI ahead of him. Dhawan makes it to the main team ahead of Rahul after his stellar IPL season. The most suspect in that top four should be Rohit Sharma, especially with Rahul on the sidelines.