It’s not even 48 hours since Pat Cummins and company won the World Cup for a record sixth time after outclassing India in the final in Ahmedabad, and we’re already turning our attention to another encounter between these two teams.
Less than a week after suffering another heartbreak at an Latest event, Team India will host Australia in a five-match T20I series starting Thursday in Visakhapatnam.
Australia had already announced its team for the series well in advance on October 28. India, on the other hand, took their time and made it official on Monday evening, less than three days before the two teams clashed at the ACA-VDCA Stadium.
2023 World Cup: “A chance to erase the pain of 2003”, Internet users react to India facing Australia in the final
2023 World Cup Final: What happens if rain interrupts India-Australia clash or it is washed out?
The difference between the two teams however, is that while the Matthew Wade-led Australian team will have a number of World Cup winners among them, India have decided to rest the majority of their players seniors and tasked middle-order hitter Suryakumar Yadav as captain of the team.
Surya was recently elevated to vice-captain after a consistent run and that responsibility was going to fall on him or Ruturaj Gaikwad with all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who has been India’s unofficial T20I skipper since the conclusion of the Cup of last year’s World T20. , nursing an ankle injury.
The team was expected to be largely comprised of players considered either T20I specialists or on the fringes of selection after impressing on the domestic circuit or in the Indian Premier League, and even at the recent Asian Games.
The Ajit Agarkar-led selection committee was reportedly reluctant to include too many players from a turbulent World Cup campaign, with SKY and batsman Ishan Kishan the only two individuals to have made an appearance in the tournament, the first playing seven matches, including the final.
There were, however, some notable omissions from the Indian team for the series which will have raised many eyebrows.
End of the road for Yuzi?
India’s squad is missing two major names for the Australian T20Is: leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and wicketkeeper-batsman Sanju Samson.
Neither player had been included in the World Cup squad, with Chahal’s omission from the mega-event seen by some as a major snub, and the fact that neither will feature in the next series despite not having represented India since August.
Both senior players had been given a handful of opportunities this year; Samson was part of the Caribbean and USA tour where he played both ODIs and T20Is. Chahal was part of that tour, but his appearances were limited to the T20I series, which India ended up losing 2-3.
Samson was also part of the tour to Ireland, where pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna returned to action after lengthy injuries and the Men in Blue won the three-match series 2-0. Chahal, meanwhile, had been part of the home season ahead of the Indian Premier League, playing both T20Is and ODIs against Sri Lanka and New Zealand.
However, neither player set the stage on fire with their performances like Mohammed Shami did with his five-for against New Zealand in the World Cup group match in Dharamshala. And given the pressure these two face and the scrutiny their performances are under, a Shami-like performance is what they should have produced to both silence their critics and stay in contention for next year’s T20 World Cup.
Samson’s inclusion could have been a bit trickier for the selectors given that they already have three wicketkeepers in the team – Kishan, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Jitesh Sharma. Gaikwad, who led India to a gold medal on debut at the Asian Games in Hangzhou a little over a month ago, has been named SKY’s deputy and is expected to lead in his place for a few matches. And Jitesh’s stellar performances in this year’s IPL for Punjab Kings will have impressed the selectors enough to guarantee him a longer run with the gloves.
Samson has had his moments with the bat this year, notably during his 41-ball 51 in an ODI against the West Indies and his 29-ball 40 against Ireland in the second T20I. As has been the case with Samson over the years, he has been a giant in the IPL as captain of the Rajasthan Royals, but just hasn’t achieved that level of consistency when it comes to ‘put on the blue jersey. And with the sudden abundance of wicketkeeper batting, he was always going to struggle to get picked.
But what about Chahal? India have named three frontline spin options: off-spinner Washington Sundar, left-arm orthodox spinner Axar Patel and leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi, and only one of them is a wrist spinner. The competition for places in Chahal’s case is not as tough as for Samson, and he was in direct competition with Bishnoi for a place in this team.
Agarkar and Co opted for the 23-year-old, and one wonders if the powers that be have an eye on the future and decided to move on from an individual who, at one point, was indispensable and part of the famous “Kul- Pairing cha’ spin.
Chahal had a few decent outings against New Zealand, including a 2-1-4-2 in the Lucknow T20I. He had also been impressive in the first two matches of the T20I series against the West Indies, picking up 2/24 and 2/19 respectively, the latter with an economy of less than 7.
Like Samson, Chahal was unable to build on these performances in the rest of the series, picking up just one more wicket in the next three outings and finishing with an average and economy of 32.60 and 9.05. For an individual fighting for his place in the Indian team, these numbers are dire.
Chahal had regained some of that form in the domestic circuits, picking up nine wickets in his two appearances for Kent in the County Championship as well as in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, where the Haryana bowler picked up 11 wickets to 12 .09 in seven outings. The numbers, however, were not extraordinary enough to impress the selectors.
Chahal responded to the snub with a cryptic message on X, formerly known as Twitter, containing nothing more than a smiley face emoji. He had posted something similar after being left out of the World Cup squad.
Like Kane Williamson, who has now become accustomed to reacting to heartbreaks with a smile on his face, the leg-spinner has no choice but to carry on and accept the snub on the chin. His chances of being able to board the flight to the Caribbean next year seem slim at the moment. But with a string of consistent performances over the next few months and making the most of every opportunity that comes his way, he could make it a reality and bury that disappointment for good.