India have announced their squad for the 3 T20Is against New Zealand in November 2021. There are several familiar faces missing from the side. No Virat Kohli. No Jasprit Bumrah. No Ravindra Jadeja. No Mohammed Shami.
Instead, Rahul Dravid's first tournament as head coach will see Rohit Sharma lead the team of several new faces. Or rather, some new faces mixed with several old faces, in a mish-mash of experience and youth.
The new names that are entering the foray are:
Venaktesh Iyer, after his staggering debut IPL season with the Kolkata Knight Riders. Harshal Patel, who finished as the leading wicket-taker in the IPL 2021 season for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Avesh Khan, on the back of his death bowling heroics with the Delhi Daredevils in the IPL.
Ruturaj Gaikwad has already made his debut in Sri Lanka in the series before the T20 WC and Mohamed Siraj is almost a household name after the Australia tour. Deepak Chahar has been doing the circuits for three years now, as have Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan.
That's just 3 new names in.
But here is where it gets complicated: Rohit Sharma is the captain, meaning he has to play all three games. KL Rahul has also been given the vice-captain role, so he will also play all three matches, as things stand.
That's the openers sorted. Where will Ishan Kishan, Gaikwad and Venkatesh Iyer play then? All three of them performed in the IPL as openers and made a strong case for being picked into the team on their merit as an opener. So why pick them if they cannot open?
Or will they play down the order? If they were picked to play in the middle order, why did the team not select actual players who performed in the middle order? Someone like Sheldon Jackson, as Harbhajan Singh pointed out:
Or someone like Deepak Hooda, who has been among the runs in the Syed Mustaq Ali trophy and has also already played in the IPL before? Or Sanju Samson or Nitish Rana who have not gotten nearly enough chances in the international team as they deserve?
The bowling selection is even more confusing: Why drop Varun Chakravarthy and Rahul Chahar? Yes, they did not pick up wickets during the T20 WC but they got just four games between them. How can they be dropped on the basis of such limited playing time?
And moreover, this series would have been the perfect opportunity for them to gain some experience. Without any of the pressures associated with playing in the ICC tournament, they could have been tested to gage how they perform.
The only explanation for picking Bhuvneshwar Kumar is that he is the sole pacer with experience and India's youngsters could use him. Even Pant deserves to get some much-needed rest after playing almost every game for the last year and change.
What happened to Team India's depth?
While India's team is definitely fresher than before, it also feels very impulsive and not as planned as it ought to be. There are players coming in who fully deserve this opportunity. But what is the opportunity to participate if it does not come with the opportunity to perform in their best faculty?
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India spent the year preceding this acting smug about how they have such ridiculous depth that the management could field 2 - maybe even 3 - different line-ups. And when finally granted the chance to do so, maybe they could have done a little better than this.
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