With the national selectors set to closely watch the IPL before they convene to pick the India squad for the Champions Trophy in England in June, this T20 league is a big opportunity for many to break into the national team. But to players like Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina and Mohammed Shami, it could be more significant with respect to their international careers. (IPL SCHEDULE)
All four have been out of competitive cricket for a while, allowing the likes of KL Rahul, Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya find a place for themselves in the ODI team. Virat Kohli had said after the ODI series win against England that it gave him a chance to try a few combinations ahead of the Champions Trophy. Going in as defending champions, India’s squad composition will ultimately boil down to who the management prefers for each slot. But with many worthy contenders, it won’t be an easy job.
SHAMI, THE STRIKE FORCE
As of now, Shami looks set to stage a successful comeback after recuperating from a right knee niggle. Umesh Yadav has made huge strides this year, but with the ability to produce not just pace or bounce but also swing, Shami still has the mandate of the team to return as the pace spearhead. The IPL is thus the perfect ground for the Delhi Daredevils player to warm up for the job at hand in England.
It might be a tournament where pacers have to bowl just four overs, but they are the easiest to fall prey to the pressure of playing in the heat and humidity and in a packed schedule. Shami’s priority would be staying injury free and he can’t ask for a better leader than Delhi Daredevils captain Zaheer Khan, who knows how to manage the workload of fast bowlers.
ROHIT, THE OPENER
With a formidable record as opening batsman, Rohit Sharma too shouldn’t find it difficult to return to the squad after a serious thigh injury kept him away from cricket for five months. Though a subsequent knee problem forced Sharma to pull out of the Deodhar Trophy, the Mumbai Indians captain looks good to make his bat talk.
India have juggled with KL Rahul and even Ajinkya Rahane in the opening slots, but Sharma virtually seals the debate, having scored two ODI double hundreds. A batsman, however, could be only as good as his last innings in an ultra-competitive environment and Sharma would be well served if he produces a few specials to easily restore the selectors’ faith.
DHAWAN, RAINA TO CATCH UP
Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina though might have to do more than that. Raina’s case is puzzling after the BCCI dropped him from the central contracts though he featured in all the T20Is against England early this year. Kedar Jadhav’s century in the same series means selection to the middle-order won’t be an open and shut case with Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni sure to feature. And Ajinkya Rahane can be trusted to switch gears from Test to T20 effortlessly.
Dhawan recently finished the second highest run-getter in the Deodhar Trophy with 223 runs in three matches. But his inconsistency precedes his strengths as opener. He was also dropped from India because of that.
In a victorious 2016 campaign, pulled off mainly due to the pace bowling unit, Sunrisers Hyderabad were plagued by precarious starts because of Dhawan’s unpredictability. Raina, the Gujarat Lions skipper, on the other hand, hasn’t played domestic cricket at all.
This IPL thus is crucial for both to show they are not a spent force when it comes to being considered for India.