India’s squad for the short T20I series in Ireland has been announced – here are the major takeaways from the 17-member unit.
A World Cup year usually means putting final touches to a settled plan and identifying their final XI – not for India, who now have had three (four if you count KL Rahul) T20I captains in the first six months of the year. The pool of players is also getting wider, with three uncapped players in the mix.
India’s squad for the Ireland series: Hardik Pandya (c), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (vc), Ishan Kishan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sanju Samson, Suryakumar Yadav, Venkatesh Iyer, Deepak Hooda, Rahul Tripathi, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Ravi Bishnoi, Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh, Umran Malik.
Here are the major takeaways from the squad announcement:
# IPL winner, now T20I leader – say hello to captain Pandya
It wasn’t a long time ago that Hardik Pandya might have been lost to Indian cricket, his buccaneering all-round brilliance pushed to the wilderness by an injury that just wouldn’t heal. Cut to the present, and he’s an IPL-winning captain, promoted to lead the India team, albeit in a low-profile series.
Pandya’s abilities on the field were never really in doubt, but his shrewd captaincy adds a different layer, the promotion also signalling how much he means to the team. The IPL was proof that Hardik connects well with his teammates, and it’s important he gets the exposure soon: once Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma step away, it will be the Pants and the Pandyas acting as the bridge to the next generation.
# The end of Shikhar Dhawan
The road might have finally run out for Shikhar Dhawan, the T20I cricketer. Some feel that he should still find a spot in the T20I setup, owing to his track record and recent form, but his absence from the second-string side reflects that the management might have finally moved on. At 35, his selection was challenged by the presence of Ishan Kishan and Ruturaj Gaikwad, and with the former rediscovering his form in the ongoing South Africa series after a mid-IPL stutter, the writing was truly on the wall. It was great while it lasted, but it’s probably time to look at what the future presents.
# Where’s Prithvi Shaw?
There’s no Dhawan, but there’s also no Shaw, his erstwhile Delhi Capitals opening partner, and 13 years his junior. Shaw was expected to be the next big thing, his unabashed style of batting surely just what the T20I team needed. But despite a couple of excellent IPL seasons – the last two fetched him 762 runs combined at a strike-rate of 159.14 and 152.97 – he continues to be unpicked, having featured in just one T20I game, last year. Gaikwad seems to be the preferred youngster for now, and repaid the faith with his maiden international fifty in the Visakhapatnam T20I. He’ll only have to wait – at 22, the snub can feel either motivating, or disillusioning.
# Rahul Tripathi gets his due
No longer the IPL journeyman that he was for the longest time, Tripathi has been handed his maiden call-up after being versatility personified in the IPL. Shuffled up and down the order, Tripathi has been handy anywhere and is the kind of enterprising floater you can’t just get enough of. And he’s only gotten better – in IPL 2020, his season strike-rate stood at 127.07, improving to 140.28 in 2021 and 158.24 in 2022. He’s also a highly skilled fielder, and can be stationed almost anywhere. An India selection at 31 is a brilliant story in itself.
# Sanju Samson, the prodigal son returns
Love him or hate him, you can’t keep him away for long. His India career has sputtered and choked, but he’s only grown from strength to strength in the IPL, leading his team into the final last month. With two 450+ run seasons in 2021 and 2022, an India call-up was in the offing, even though some might scoff at his returns in the India kit – he averages 14.50 and has struck at 121.67 in 12 T20I innings. The six-hitting ability is unmatched, and he’s got a penchant to score big once he gets going, making him an interesting prospect to have in the upper-middle order. If need be, he also brings some chaos to the wicketkeeping race – Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik, Ishan Kishan, and now Samson – there are options galore.