Cloud over Rishabh’s T20I future
The outgoing national selection committee on Tuesday dismissed some of the established names to bring about a quiet revolution in India’s T20 plans.
While it was a given that Hardik Pandya would take up the mantle of captaincy after the debacle in the World Cup semi-final in Australia, the way the top-3 in India’s batting has been eased out signalled that the BCCI was ready to take some tough decisions.
A formal announcement on Hardik’s promotion will be made once the new selection committee is put in place.
Perhaps the most significant development has been the exclusion of Rishabh Pant, once considered as captaincy material, from both the squads.
The BCCI didn’t mention anything in the media release but there’s talk that he is carrying a knee niggle and has been asked to report to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore for strength and conditioning rehab.
Sources, however, told The Telegraph that Pant is no longer a certainty for selection in the shortest format. He hasn’t really flourished in T20 cricket and if current chairman Chetan Sharma is retained in the new committee, it could mean bad news for Pant.
The flamboyant wicketkeeper-batter scored 364 runs in 25 T20Is at a strike-rate of 132.84 in 2022 and hardly made an impact during the showpiece event Down Under — he played only two matches.
The selectors are in favour of giving Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson a long rope ahead of the next World Cup in 2024 and Pant may have to remain content with the Test berth. Ishan’s ODI double century against Bangladesh recently has been an eye opener and it would come as no surprise if he is persisted with in both the short formats.
There is another school of thought which suggests that if KL Rahul can keep wickets, why waste a spot in the XI by including a non-performer like Pant? One thing is clear that Pant will be under pressure to retain his position in the 50-over version too and Ishan/Samson’s form will determine his place in the side.
The selectors’ message has been clear: perform or perish. The failure in Australia has been a wake-up call and the Board is determined not to repeat the mistakes when the World Cup is being staged in India. The Board’s brass knows well that similar failures at home next year will have huge repercussions.
The same logic has been followed when omitting Shikhar Dhawan and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. While their performances have nosedived in recent months, age is also not on their side. There is a call for fresh faces in the limited overs format to bring in that youthful exuberance on the field.
Equally intriguing has been the decision to exclude Rohit Sharma from the T20 squad. The Team India captain has been practising at Bandra-Kurla complex in Mumbai. While he has not been considered fit for the T20Is against Sri Lanka, he is expected to be in shape for the ODIs seven days later.
Actually the Board wants the new set of selectors to put the seal of approval on the captaincy change in the shortest format. Until then the silent decision to keep Rohit, Virat Kohli and Rahul out of the T20 squad will continue.
The passing of the ODI vice-captaincy to Hardik is also a step in that direction. Rahul no longer enjoys the confidence of the powersthat-be and his self-inducedbreak during the T20I series has been used as an opportunity to strip him of the leadership role.
Kohli’s case is slightly curious. He returned as India’smost successful batter in the T20 World Cup — 296 runs in six matches at a strike-rate of 136.40 — but doesn’t feature in the selectors’ plans for the next edition in the West Indies/USA.
The good news coming out of the NCA is that both Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja have been passed fit but will not be rushed into international cricket. Both are expected to play the Test series against Australia at home.