Twenty20 cricket is a form of the game that calls for a healthy appetite for risk. Players have to take the occasional gamble. That this extends to the choices made by the Indian national cricket selection board was proved on Friday. Know your team
The selectors have picked players who are carrying injuries, hoping all will be well when the tournament begins in the West Indies on April 30. Gautam Gambhir and Ashish Nehra are yet to return to IPL action — the batsman has a hamstring niggle and the bowler a rib injury — yet both were named in the 15-man squad announced in Mumbai on Friday.
In the selectors’ defence, India’s first match of the T20 World Cup is more than a month away, and, if all goes well, the Delhi pair should be fit by then.
When India went into last year’s T20 World Cup, coincidentally, left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan and opening batsman Virender Sehwag were also carrying injuries.
As it happened, Sehwag did not play a single game while Zaheer was well below par and India’s campaign ended in
As cover for Nehra, the selectors awarded an India cap to the hard-working R Vinay Kumar from Karnataka, who also plays for Royal Challengers (see HT, March 25).
There were other questionable decisions in the squad Chairman K Srikkanth and his co-selectors picked. Prime among them was the omission of Virat Kohli, whose place went to Rohit Sharma, and the selection of leggie Piyush Chawla, whose performances have not been a patch on those of left-arm spinner Murali Kartik. In both cases, though, the stamp of Mahendra Singh Dhoni is apparent, as the India skipper has been known to back Rohit to the hilt.
Kohli's omission is particularly baffling as the Delhi batsman has grown enormously as a cricketer in the last two years. While the prodigious talent is still very much on display, Kohli has learnt to temper his aggression and choose his shots wisely.
Whenever Kohli has got the opportunity in one-day internationals - scores of 57, 31, 2, 102*, 71*, 91, 9, 107, 54 and 27 in his last 10 knocks speak for themselves - he has performed. In comparison, Rohit's story has been one of underachievement. He has not managed a single half-century in his last 19 knocks in ODI cricket. In the IPL he has shown sparks of class, but has certainly not done enough to earn a spot to the exclusion of Kohli.
Chawla getting the second specialist spinner's slot is equally mystifying. Kartik, who has a wealth of T20 experience in county cricket in England, has bowled with imagination and impeccable control in IPL III. Batsmen have been unable to take liberties with him - his 19 overs, seven of which have come in the powerplay, have cost the KKR only 106 runs, in an economy rate of 5.57. Only Anil Kumble concedes fewer runs per over. In comparison, Piyush Chawla's 18 overs have come at 7.38 per over, with only three wickets to show.