Road to 2022 T20 World Cup: How is Team India shaping up?

Updated on Mar 02, 2022 01:15 PM IST

With the T20Is done and dusted in the first half of India's T20 World Cup preparation, we take a look at how the team is shaping up for the big event.

Indian players celebrate the wicket of Sri Lanka's Vice-Captain Charith Asalanka during the 2nd T20 match against Sri Lanka, at HPCA Stadium, in Dharamsala on Saturday(ANI)
Indian players celebrate the wicket of Sri Lanka's Vice-Captain Charith Asalanka during the 2nd T20 match against Sri Lanka, at HPCA Stadium, in Dharamsala on Saturday(ANI)
ByAratrick Mondal

"These are really exciting times for Indian cricket. I use the word exciting because of the amount of talent that is on show and the way they're saying 'consider me, take me in the squad'. That means the guys who are settled will not be complacent. That's the best thing to have for any team and for India to have that is a huge plus."

Three consecutive whitewash victories, all at home, comprising nine straight wins - the Rahul Dravid era, with Rohit Sharma at the helm, couldn't have asked for a better start as Team India cap off a sensational run in the first half of their preparation for the 2022 T20 World Cup. And the biggest positive from this unbeaten run, as rightfully pointed out by former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, has been their bench strength. 

Few of India's key players were rested across this period - Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, KL Rahul, Jasprit Bumrah missed two series each and Rishabh Pant missed one - while six were handed their debut caps and the team found seven different Player of the Match winners in nine games.

With the T20Is done and dusted in the first half of India's World Cup preparation, we take a look at how the team is shaping up for the big event.

Who are the absolute lock-ins? 

The biggest positive from this unbeaten run was that every newcomer, every fringe player raised their hand for the T20 World Cup selection, adding to the team management's happy headache. 

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India will be travelling with a 15-man squad for the tournament. Despite missing a majority of the games, Kohli, Rahul, Jadeja, Bumrah, and Pant remain absolute lock-ins for the tournament along with captain Rohit. To this list add, Suryakumar Yadav, who stepped up during the series against West Indies with match-winning contributions of 34* and 65 in the first and third T20I. Shreyas Iyer, who watched Suryakumar's performance from the bench for the first two games and from the other end of the crease with his 16-ball 25 in the 3rd match, was an absolute show-stopper in the Sri Lanka series, scoring a record 204 runs at a strike rate of 174, laced with three unbeaten half-century knocks. 

Suryakumar Yadav(Getty)
Suryakumar Yadav(Getty)

Among pacers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harshal Patel have been the most effective. While the veteran bowler picked eight wickets in seven games at an economy rate of 7.50, the newbie finished with 11 wickets, conceding 8.51 runs per over. Deepak Chahar too joins the competition with his lower-order batting prowess making him a standout option. 

Yuzvendra Chahal has proven to be an effective spin option since his T20I return in November, picking five wickets in five games at an economy rate of 6.78. 

Venkatesh Iyer too aced the first round of audition. Having been brought on as Hardik Pandya's potential replacement, Venkatesh impressed the selectors with his finishing prowess in the West Indies series, while also picking five wickets in just 9.1 overs across the three series. 

File Photo of Venkatesh Iyer.(AP)
File Photo of Venkatesh Iyer.(AP)

Rising middle-order depth

India's forgettable T20 World Cup in the UAE was a result of two bad days at the office and middle-order failures were one of the key reasons behind those defeats. 

India used eight players in the middle order (3-6) during the three series, excluding Rohit who had made an appearance down the order in the Kolkata dead rubber against West Indies to give freshers an opportunity up the order, five of which were used as multiple places. 

Suryakumar rose to the occasion in the West Indies series, batting at No.5, to stake his claim in the World Cup squad. Shreyas, who waited in the wings after a quiet New Zealand series and managed to get an opportunity after Kohli was given a bio-bubble rest, responded with stellar knocks against Sri Lanka, all of which came batting at No.3, where Kohli bats, hence adding to a happy headache. 

Shreyas Iyer in action during the third T20I between India and Sri Lanka.(AP)
Shreyas Iyer in action during the third T20I between India and Sri Lanka.(AP)

In addition, Venkatesh provided the perfect balance in the West Indies series, with his slog-over hitting prowess and stitching three crucial stands as well. In the Sri Lanka series, Jadeja was promoted to No.5 where he scored an impressive 18-ball 45 not out laced with some brilliant drives and pulls, and scored a 15-ball 22* in the third game. Sanju Samson too showed a glimpse of the "talent" Rohit so highly spoke about ahead of the series, with his knock of 39 off 25. 

A change in batting approach

India's conservative approach towards T20 cricket was one of the key reasons behind their World Cup downfall, and the numbers were more evident when they batted first. 

In 20 matches India played between 2020 till the loss to New Zealand in the T20 World Cup, their overall scoring rate in the powerplay and the middle overs were among the worst (full-member nations). They batted first in 14 of those matches, losing six. And all six matches had totals less than 150. In the two T20 World Cup losses, India posted 151 against Pakistan and 110 against New Zealand. Their lowest was 81 which came against Sri Lanka in Colombo.

Comparing India's overall scoring performances: 

 2020-October 2021November 2021-present
Over phaseRun RateBoundary RateRun RateBoundary Rate
Powerplay7.568.794
Middle6.99.58.26.8
Death10.14.611.33.6

In all those games, their run rate and boundary-hitting rate had both taken a dip, but what had added to their woe was losing more powerplay wickets - at least two against the new ball. 

Comparing India's scoring performances when batting first:

 2020-October 2021November 2021-present
Over phaseRun RateBoundary RateRun RateBoundary Rate
Powerplay76.38.64
Middle6.79.57.67.7
Death9.45.112.243.3

 Since the New Zealand defeat, India have enjoyed five straight wins while batting first and the team have posted north of 180 in all those matches. 

“The meetings were obviously about this, that we have been very predictable in the games. When we have played against big teams we have been a bit predictable taking care of our wickets, thinking much about keeping wickets in hand and then slogging in the second half of the innings. But right now, it’s (our approach) so simple. All of us are so talented, we have shots in our pockets, the captain and coach believe in us, like what we have done in the IPL and important matches,” Ishan Kishan explained India’s new approach after his career-best knock in the Sri Lanka series.

Picking wickets with new balls, adding six bowling options

During the aforementioned pre-tournament phase, India picked a wicket every match with the new ball and in the two defeats in the T20 World Cup, they finished with 43/0 against Pakistan and 44/1 against New Zealand. With Bhuvneshwar back in form, India's new-ball wickets have increased to almost two per match.

Rohit Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Rohit Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar

One aspect that the team management was consistent about during this unbeaten run was keeping at least six bowling options. They may not have utilised all options in a match, with Venkatesh not bowling in a couple of games, but India have managed to keep their bowling depth intact during these T20Is. This also adds to Hardik Pandya’s concern who will now only find a spot in the team as an all-rounder.

Which are the positions still up for grabs?

  1. Chahal and?: The only aspect that remains to be seen is who else makes the spin department for the World Cup squad. Ravi Bishnoi was impressive in debut series earlier this month against West Indies, winning the Player of the Match performance as well. Kuldeep Yadav managed to get only one match while Ashwin and Axar Patel played only one series. Both Rahul Chahar and Varun Chakravarthy, who were part of the last World Cup squad, are yet to be tested.
  2. Back-up opener: Ishan Kishan, who opened in five matches post the World Cup, struggled against West Indies before scoring a 56-ball 89 in the Sri Lanka series opener. The management also provided Ruturaj Gaikwad with an opportunity, but the CSK star only managed to get one game before getting injured.
  3. Venkatesh confirmed?: Not yet. But the 27-year-old has responded impressively to whatever challenge the team has thrown to him - he batted in the middle-order, finished games, and picked wickets. But a whole lot depends on how Hardik performs in IPL 2022, where he confirmed that he will return as an all-rounder.
  4. Who are the pacers?: Besides Bumrah, India have Bhuvneshwar, Chahar, Avesh Khan, Prasidh Krishna, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Siraj battling for the two slots.
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