The Indian selectors sprang a surprise by naming a spin-heavy bowling attack for the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup. Off-spinner R Ashwin made a comeback to the Indian T20 team after a gap of four years, while rookie leggie Rahul Chahar was preferred over the experienced Yuzvendra Chahal. Left-arm spin bowling all-rounder Axar Patel and mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy too found a place in the 15-member squad, which has just four pacers in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
There is a big question mark over whether Pandya can bowl his quota of four overs as he has been struggling with a back injury for the past two years. Swing bowler Deepak Chahar, seam bowling all-rounder Shardul Thakur and middle-order batsman Shreyas Iyer have been kept as standbys for the marquee event.
A glance at the Indian squad and the immediate reaction is that it lacks balance. An extra seamer in place of Axar would have added much more balance to the team.
The selectors, who picked former Indian captain M S Dhoni as the mentor, reckon the tracks in the UAE will get slower and offer turn to the spinners towards the end of the tournament especially since the World T20 will be played on the wickets which will be used for the remainder of IPL 2021.
There was no surprise as far as the batting department was concerned with Suryakumar Yadav and wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan earning their place based on their fine show for Mumbai Indians in the IPL and with the national team in the limited chances they have had. The injury to off-spinner Washington Sundar as well as Ashwin's excellent returns in IPL 2020 in the UAE paved the way for the latter's comeback.
It's hard to fathom the reasoning behind the exclusion of Chahal. The Haryana leggie, who plays for Indian captain Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, has been India's premier spinner in the shortest format. Chahal has loads of experience, can bowl in the powerplay and at the death, and could pick up wickets as well as contain the run flow. Chief selector Chetan Sharma pointed out that they went in for Rahul Chahar since he bowls at a quicker pace as compared to Chahal. If the selectors have opted for Rahul Chahar as a surprise element, most of the top batsmen have played a lot against him in the IPL.
The Indian squad has an offie in Ashwin, a leggie in Chahar, a mystery spinner in Chakravarthy and two left-arm tweakers in Jadeja and Axar. The only reason for Axar's inclusion could be that he was picked as a cover for Jadeja. Even then it would have made better sense to keep him in the reserves' list.
India are expected to reach the semifinals from their group and Kohli's team lacks firepower in batting as compared to favourites West Indies and England. Pant and Pandya will have to be at their best to score quickly in the end overs. In the knockout games, a two-over blitz could change the outcome.
Deepak Chahar has been mighty impressive with the new ball. He could pick up early wickets and chip in with the bat as well. Chahar would have been a better choice than Shami who has found the going tough at the death.
Thakur can consider himself unlucky not to have made the final 15. The Mumbai all-rounder had put up a good show in the few opportunities that he's got.
There is every possibility of a few of the players breaking down in the IPL and the final 15 could well wear different look from the one announced last night.