This is the year of the T20 World Cup, which will be held in Sri Lanka in September-October. Before that, India are likely to play five T20 Internationals, three against Sri Lanka and two against New Zealand. So, the IPL that just got over was the biggest platform for players to showcase their skills in this format. Selectors have not experimented much with the T20 squad in the past and most of the names select themselves. But there have been some standout performances.
Here’s our take on who the 15 could be and some of the names that might be up for discussion.
Virender Sehwag (Daredevils): He was not part of the India T20 squads in one-off matches against England and South Africa last year due to injuries. But with five half-centuries in a row, which helped Delhi Daredevils finish on top in the league stages, Sehwag is back. He has shown a knack to stay till the 15th or 16th over and his team has benefited every time he's done that.
Gautam Gambhir (KKR): He led Kolkata Knight Riders from the front to their maiden title and finished as the second highest run-getter of the season, behind only Chris Gayle. The India opener transformed a team that kept falling short of potential, instilling in it single-minded focus to win.
Virat Kohli (RCB): After the highs of Australia and Asia Cup, it was a quiet IPL for the India vice-captain. He was only the tenth highest Indian run-getter this season, and 16th overall with 364 runs in 16 matches. Even Rahul Dravid, not a natural fit for T20 cricket, and little-known Mandeep Singh of Kings XI Punjab scored more runs.
Rohit Sharma (Mumbai Indians): Australia was forgettable but an important knock against Pakistan with Virat Kohli in the Asia Cup got him back. An unbeaten 109 off 60 balls to defeat KKR on a slow Eden Gardens wicket again underlined his class. But his inconsistency hurt his team.
Suresh Raina (CSK): His hurricane fifty in the final showed his ability to produce a big hit out of nowhere has not entirely vanished, although KKR fought back to win. He struggled in the ODIs in England last year as well as in Australia, showing a steady hand only in the home series against England in between the tours. His inconsistency affected CSK this season.
MS Dhoni (CSK): Mumbai Indians came in the firing line of the India captain and were wiped out of the IPL. He has had a gruelling year since winning the World Cup last year and has played through a dodgy back and hamstring.
Ravindra Jadeja (CSK): The costliest player in the last auction, the all-rounder had an ordinary IPL season. But players like this Saurashtra south paw cannot be kept out because of their match-winning abilities. Left-arm spin was the skippers' choice in this league against right-handed batsmen on the rampage.
Yusuf Pathan (KKR): One of the costliest buys for KKR, he did not deliver this season. His lack of confidence and form showed in the final when he holed out attempting a desperate heave. He struggled against the short ball and against deliveries spinning away, but he is a good bet to counter skyrocketing run rates.
Umesh Yadav (Daredevils): With 19 wickets from 17 matches at an economy rate of 7.42, the Vidarbha pacer emerged as the highest Indian wicket-taker in this IPL. He was fourth overall. Consistently clocking around 145kph, he was difficult to hit out of the park. He has also developed a good slower ball but will have to add more variations.
R Vinay Kumar (RCB): His team couldn’t make it to the last four, but the medium-pacer finished as the leading Indian wicket-taker with Umesh. If the selectors omit the experienced Zaheer Khan for the T20 World Cup, the onus might be on Kumar to lead the bowling attack.
R Ashwin (CSK): He came to limelight through the IPL, and his ability to bowl in the Powerplay and upstaged Harbhajan Singh to become India's main off-spinner last year. With a tally of 14 wickets, he finished way down in the wicket-takers' list, but with an economy rate of around 6.5, despite Chennai featuring in some high-scoring matches, he has stayed in business.
Irfan Pathan (Daredevils): Such is his utility value that skipper Virender Sehwag left out leading bowler Morne Morkel and included all-rounder Andre Russell for his batting ability after Irfan was injured for the second qualifier against CSK. It did not work, but he can be an option as an all-rounder — can come in either for elder brother Yusuf or Ravindra Jadeja.
Manoj Tiwary (KKR): Having sat on the bench for 12 consecutive international matches, ignoring him on the basis of a quiet IPL would seem unfair. But getting into the 11 will be difficult considering a star-studded middle order. Selectors will be wary as lusty hitting is not his forte, he needs time to play himself in.