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T20I series: India’s tightrope walk to build team for World Cup in West Indies and US in June

Think-tank has been burdened with putting together a playing XI which will have to discard a few of the established names in world cricket if a new beginning has to be made

Indranil Majumdar Calcutta Published 09.12.23, 06:19 AM
Virat Kohli.

Virat Kohli. PTI picture

India’s three-match T20I series against South Africa, beginning on Sunday, could provide a sneak peek into the team composition for the World Cup in the West Indies and the US in June.

The team management needs to make some bold calls ahead of the showpiece event. The think-tank has been burdened with putting together a playing XI which will
have to discard a few of the established names in world cricket if a new beginning has to be made.


More specifically, sources, either in the BCCI or associated with it, told The Telegraph, the team is looking to do away with their conservative batting policy and adopt a more dynamic approach in keeping with the demands of the format. India’s last two defeats in the T20 World Cup have been blamed on their conventional batting style.

At the last meeting to pick the squads for the South Africa tour, the Ajit Agarkar-led selection committee is understood to have discussed this tricky situation but no decision was made.

The selectors have kept the likes of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul out of the T20 side since the last World Cup in Australia. But they have been forced to consider Rohit as captain again since Hardik Pandya is injury-prone and Rohit’s positive intent in the Powerplay overs of the 50-over World Cup has put him firmly back in the reckoning.

Rohit Sharma.

Rohit Sharma. File photo

But it is the uncertainty over Kohli’s selection that has put the selectors and the Board in a quandary. The qu­estion doing the rounds is: will they show the courage to leave him out of the squad?

With a record 765 runs from 11 matches in the just-ended World Cup at home, Kohli has reaffirmed that he is a player for the big occasion. He was India’s highest run-getter in the last edition of the T20 World Cup with 296 though his strike-rate of 136.40 was way below the best in this format.

The perception among the men who matter remains that Kohli is more suited to ODIs and Tests where he can take time to build on his innings. Ishan Kishan will be better suited at No.3 if India are to harbour hopes of regaining the T20 title.

The team will play six T20Is in the lead-up to the to­urnament, three in South Africa and as many matches at home against Afghanistan in January.

With Pandya set for a comeback for the showpiece event and Suryakumar Yadav’s selection a formality, youngsters like Rinku Singh, who has excelled as a finisher, will find it tough to make the XI unless Kohli is benched.

Given the circumstances, India will have to go in with five specialist bowlers
with Pandya filling in as the sixth option.

Sources told The Telegraph that the Board is wary of a backlash in case of a reversal of fortunes in the World Cup. Some in the Board also feel that what’s best for IPL franchises may not always suit the national side.

Two selectors, Shiv Sundar Das and Salil Ankola, will be in South Africa and Agarkar is also expected to be there during the Test series. It’s still not clear if the chief selector will speak to Kohli and convince him to skip the World Cup.

Some officials are of the opinion that the Board brass should initiate a dialogue with Kohli once the team returns home. A cricketer of his stature should be given the due respect and a proper communication process opened before taking any drastic steps.

“Imagine a situation where Rohit stays captain and Kohli is not part of the squad. It co­uld affect the team in a lot of ways. Any such move will have to be well thought out by taking the seniors into confidence,” someone in the know of things told The Telegraph.

The only way out of the aw­kward situation for the Board will be if Kohli decides to withdraw himself from the shortest format of the game. As of now, there’s no indication he will take that route.

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