By Jaideep Varma and Jatin Thakkar
In September this year, the T20 World Cup will be held in Sri Lanka. There is no T20 cricket between now and then (except a solitary match against Sri Lanka in August) that could affect the selections that can be made now, primarily based on the performances in IPL 2012. We have selected a squad of 15 based on that – but also kept their career T20 performances and T20 International performances in focus too (all taken through Impact Index).
The numbers that come from IPL 2012 are the most important inputs here because they are an indicator of both form and ability. In a long tournament like this, flash performances are quickly identified – the source of consistent performances cannot be underestimated. And if good consistent performances are not rewarded in a tournament like the IPL, then it would appear as if reputations are all that T20 national selections are being made on. The big flaw in that is that a lot of these reputations are built in the 50-over format, and many of those players are not as good in T20. Perhaps it is the extra hustle required in T20 or the excessive focus during a shorter period of time, but there are quite a few players who performances are not on an equal level in both formats. In those cases, it makes much more sense to select players with a proven T20 track record…and IPL is one of the best places to judge that.
It is also useful to remember that the T20 World Cup will be held in Sri Lanka – so having a team for those conditions is equally important. An accent on spinners would be par-for-the-course here.
We present our thought process, and the selection, for whatever they are worth, below.
Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni
and Zaheer Khan are automatic selections.
Despite not having a great IPL season this year, Suresh Raina did do well in the closing stages, especially the final. As India’s highest impact T20 player in history, unless he was dreadfully out-of-form, there would be little reason to keep him out anyway.
Gambhir and Sehwag were stellar for a lot of the tournament, and Dhoni showed his class in the playoffs. Zaheer Khan was steady while being the fourth-highest impact Indian bowler in IPL 2012. His experience would be invaluable in a big tournament like this, if he is fully fit.
THE IPL 2012 INDUCTEES
For the remaining 10 places, these four should force their way in, as per the performances in IPL 2012 – Shikhar Dhawan, Parvinder Awana, Pawan Negi and L Balaji.
Dhawan has performed consistently before in the IPL – but this year, he has been special. He made a very high proportion of runs for his franchise and is probably at his peak as a player now. There is no better time to get somebody into the national side.
Ditto for Awana and Negi. Both bowled extremely well for their respective franchises in the IPL – and stole the show often from their more notable colleagues. In fact, Awana was the highest impact Indian bowler in IPL 2012 – his high wicket-taking propensity not compromised by his economy either. Negi, though he played just 6 games, was the highest impact Indian spinner, with a superb Economy IMPACT as his most notable trait. Balaji, who played 8 matches before he got injured, looked at his best – with a very high Economy IMPACT and an impressive consistency. He could be very effective on Sri Lankan pitches.
THE SPIN ATTACK
Perhaps the most crucial cog in the wheel in Sri Lanka, it is hard to keep R Ashwin out – despite being in somewhat indifferent form, he was eventually still the 2nd-highest impact Indian spinner in IPL 2012 (a poor IPL for Indian spinners, this). Moreover, conditions in Sri Lanka will be like those at home for him, and that would be his best chance to get back to his best. For another spinner (required as a back-up in Sri Lanka), we cannot go beyond Piyush Chawla – the next highest impact spinner in IPL 2012. No place for Harbhajan Singh or Pragyan Ojha this time around.
STRENGTHENING THE BATTING
The remaining 4 places need to bolster the batting strength. Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu need to come in, simply because top/middle-order players who play well under pressure are very important – and both showed this amply in IPL 2012 – and have a history of doing so in T20 cricket anyway. Rayudu, in fact, even has the dubious honour of being the only one amongst IPL history’s highest impact ten batsmen who hasn’t played for his country yet – he is also a useful reserve wicketkeeper). Ajinkya Rahane cannot be left out for the sheer weight of his runs (he was also amongst the highest impact Indian batsmen in IPL 2012) – though there is now an embarrassment of riches when it comes to opening batsmen – so he may well struggle to get into the starting XI. The last place is a toss-up between Manvinder Bisla and Mandeep Singh. Bisla is not required as a reserve wicketkeeper (as Rayudu can do that job) and really only produced one huge impact performance this season – albeit this level of big match performance is rare. However, the nod should go to Mandeep Singh for his sheer consistency (a batting failure rate of mere 25%).
Virat Kohli – not half the ODI batsman in T20 cricket – it would be unfair to many others if he is selected in this team.
Ravindra Jadeja – one of the few all-rounders in the Indian scene – but he has been very inconsistent overall lately, and should not inspire confidence (could be in the reserves though for being a spinner-all-rounder).
Irfan Pathan – an all-time great T20 player for India, but has not got his bowling form back entirely yet – his IPL 2012 IMPACT has not been very high (despite some good performances off-and-on) – as a medium-pace all-rounder, probably does not warrant the benefit-of-doubt in Sir Lankan conditions, but his T20 career record and those few strong IPL 2012 performances, besides the alarming paucity of genuine all-rounders in India, should at least get him on the reserves list.
Umesh Yadav – one of India’s most promising bowlers but hasn’t been very high impact in T20 cricket – wasn’t bad for DD in the last IPL though, should certainly be amongst the reserves.
Munaf Patel – India’s second-highest impact T20 bowler ever was not consistent in the IPL, nor is he a very good fielder (and temperamentally gave a poor account of himself this season).
Yusuf Pathan – amongst India’s 3 highest impact T20 players but was hopelessly out-of-form in the IPL, though he did produce one big innings in the playoffs – that, and his proven class should still keep him in the reserves (where his form could be examined again).
Murali Vijay – the second-highest impact T20 Indian batsman ever, but has not been in great touch lately (except for a couple of innings in IPL 2012, the last against a weakened DD attack) – the team anyway has a surfeit of opening batsmen, so probably should not be in the reserves too.
Robin Uthappa – amongst the highest impact 10 Indian batsmen in IPL 2012 – would have been a shoo-in as a reserve wicketkeeper, in the absence of Rayudu - would not get a place in the side as an opener as well, so misses out.
Manvinder Bisla – a relatively high failure rate but his big match performance in the IPL final made him one of the highest impact players this season – should at least make the reserves for that.
This is what the 15-member team would then look like then, with the strongest XI listed first.
- Gautam Gambhir
- Virender Sehwag
- Shikhar Dhawan
- Suresh Raina
- Rohit Sharma
- MS Dhoni (Captain)
- Ambati Rayudu
- Pawan Negi
- R Ashwin
- Zaheer Khan
- Parvinder Awana
- Ajinkya Rahane
- L Balaji
- Piyush Chawla
- Mandeep Singh
Reserves (in case of injury or lack of form to any of the above)
- Umesh Yadav
- Yusuf Pathan
- Ravindra Jadeja
- Irfan Pathan
- Manvinder Bisla
It is very unlikely that Yuvraj Singh will be fit for this event – if he is, then he’d probably be in the squad for Mandeep Singh, and in the starting XI for whichever batsman seems be not in his best form.
So, this is our call. Of course, the final team that gets selected will be selected partly on reputation and bear a somewhat different look. But, on pure performance, we believe this is the team that should represent India in the T20 World Cup this September in Sri Lanka.
For more information, please go to www.impactindexcricket.com