Ex-India selector Sarandeep Singh tipped left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh to get the nod over fit-again Harshal Patel, reasoning that the latter lacks the zip for Australian surfaces. He welcomed back Jasprit Bumrah as India named a 15-strong squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup starting October 16.
Both Bumrah (back) and Harshal (rib & side strain) missed the West Indies T20Is and the recently concluded Asia Cup owing to injuries. In their absence, 23-year-old Arshdeep Singh rose to the occasion. Sarandeep wants the southpaw to play alongside senior pros Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar in a three-pronged pace attack.
“One, he is a leftie, and secondly, he can bowl well with both the new ball and at the death. Harshal Patel mostly rolls his fingers over the ball, much like off spin. He hardly bowls seam up, and every time he does that, he gets hit for runs. He was consistently delivering in the IPL, which is not at all easy, but he cannot bowl bouncers or yorkers.”Plus, he has to complete his overs by the 16th over, because Bhuvi and Bumrah will bowl at the death. And if you go with Arshdeep, then you can use Bhuvi and Bumrah in the middle overs too,” Sarandeep Singh said in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda.
While Harshal has been a massive success in the IPL, 23 wickets in 17 T20Is at an economy of 8.58 won’t qualify for replication. In fact, on his maiden overseas tour to the UK this June-July, the 31-year-old conceded 9.8 runs an over, thus accentuating Sarandeep’s concern.
Arshdeep, having played 11 games so far, has an economy rate of 7.38. The Punjab lad showed his prowess with the new ball, while his incredible ability to absorb pressure came to the fore when he almost defended seven runs in two consecutive last overs in Dubai.
Another comeback has been staged by Mohammad Shami, whose snub was widely debated as India got knocked out of the Asia Cup. He has been named as one of the four standby players for the showpiece event while being a part of the squads for the forthcoming home series against Australia and South Africa.
Sarandeep Singh asserted that Shami shouldn’t have fallen out of favor with the selectors, especially after his IPL exploits. The former India off-spinner added that the management had to revert to experience when the young guns couldn’t live up to their billing.
“Mohammad Shami shouldn’t have gone out, in the first place. The way he performed for Gujarat, he should have been there in the main squad. Additionally, what he can do with the new ball, I don’t think any other bowler can. He has now been brought back because none of Prasidh Krishna, Mohammed Siraj and Avesh Khan worked. Since all the youngsters went out of the limelight, you had to again go back to Mohammad Shami.“They have now again gone for experience, and the selection committee is guilty of fluctuating too much. You could have also stuck with Avesh Khan. Because as a selector, if you are backing somebody, then back them over a period of time. Avesh Khan will play for 10 more years, whereas you never know how long can Shami play. The thing is, when you lose series, you are forced to do certain things, you are forced to go back to senior players,” Sarandeep, who played 3 Tests and 5 ODIs, explained.
While Shami’s T20I numbers will be filed under the ‘sub-par’ category, the 32-year-old has scalped 19 wickets or more in each of the last four IPL editions, including being the leader of the pack in Gujarat Titans’ title-winning season.
Deepak Chahar, who recently made his return after an almost six-month injury layoff, is the other reserve seamer. While raising doubts over his match fitness, Sarandeep Singh stated that Chahar would have lent more depth to India’s batting.
“Deepak Chahar has just returned from injury, and hence, his match fitness is still questionable. But if you had Deepak Chahar, then the team would’ve been much stronger because the batting would’ve gone all the way down to No. 9,” he said.
Spinning out of India’s No. 7 imbroglio
India have some decisions to make when it comes to their lower order
India’s World Cup preparations were dealt a massive setback even before they could stake a claim in the Asia Cup final. Ravindra Jadeja went straight from a hotel room to an operation theater to put his injured right knee in place. The star all-rounder didn’t even make the reserves. Axar Patel, a like-for-like replacement, will travel for his maiden T20 World Cup.
All-rounders at No. 6 and 7 work as pivots. While Axar isn’t as reliable with the willow as Jadeja, he isn’t a sitting duck either. Hardik Pandya has made the No. 6 spot his own, and Sarandeep Singh outlined three candidates for the next slot.
“You have three options in Axar, Hooda and Ashwin. Deepak Hooda is a good candidate because he can bat and is also a bowling option. About Ashwin, he is not the ideal T20 batter, plus his fielding is not up to the standards as Hooda’s. But you also need a proper spinner alongside [Yuzvendra] Chahal. I would go with Axar,” he opined.
That would effectively throw a spanner in the works of Dinesh Karthik. Selected primarily to go all guns blazing at the death, he is directly competing with fellow wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant for a solitary spot. The 37-year-old can definitely be accommodated at No. 7, but that would push India back to square one of not having a sixth bowling option.
Singh also raised the effectiveness of Kuldeep Yadav’s left-arm leg-spin Down Under, but he was quick to dismiss discussions on any kind of experimentation.
“I thought Kuldeep Yadav could’ve been picked because you need a wrist spinner in Australia, but then he wasn’t really in the scheme of things. So they didn’t want to take any risk, especially after losing in the Asia Cup. And you don’t want to lose a series just before leaving for Australia. So this is the right team,” he added.
Sarandeep Singh’s ideal playing XI: Rohit Sharma (C), KL Rahul (VC), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (WK), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal
“Selectors should speak to the players” – Sarandeep Singh on importance of home series
KL Rahul’s average and strike rate in the Asia Cup were a timid 26.40 and 122.22 respectively
Hardik, Bhuvneshwar and Arshdeep will head to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) for conditioning-related treatment at different points in the six T20Is. But one player who should spend as much time as possible on the field and get back into his groove is KL Rahul.
The 30-year-old opener played his first T20I this year in the continental event and looked a pale shadow of himself. The rustiness can be attributed to the sports hernia surgery he underwent earlier this year, followed by a bout of COVID-19.
Sarandeep Singh reiterated that India’s vice-captain can take the game away from the opposition once he comes into his own. With Virat Kohli and captain Rohit Sharma having already hit form, that would make for a lethal top three.
“Any player takes time after coming from an injury layoff. Unfortunately, there weren’t any domestic games in between for him to play two-three matches for Karnataka and find some form. He went straight to Zimbabwe, where he couldn’t runs, then came to the Asia Cup, where too the runs deserted him. But he is a seasoned player and, the day he scores, he can turn out to be a match-winning player. He has a good record in T20 cricket and forms a good partnership with Rohit Sharma,” he told Sportskeeda.
Underlining the need to put the rotation policy to bed, Singh exhorted the selectors and the team management to chalk out a tentative playing XI and stick to the players regardless of how they perform.
“The upcoming series against Australia will be extremely critical. KL Rahul has to score runs there, because you don’t want to have any doubt regarding the opening combination going into the World Cup. Even if somebody doesn’t perform well, you have to back him that, ‘you are going to the World Cup, no matter what’. In a format like T20, you can never rightly predict someone’s form. It happens so fast that, by the time you claw yourself back, the match gets over. The selectors should speak to the players and say in no uncertain terms that nobody will be dropped on the basis of performance.“You should play your best XI in all six T20Is. When you will perform well and win the six T20Is, only then you can go to Australia with confidence. All the senior players have gotten ample rest. You can probably give rest once you have won the first two T20Is and you want to give some game time to those sitting outside. All kinds of experiments should be done away with,” he concluded.
The three T20Is against Australia will be played in Mohali (Sept 20), Nagpur (Sept 23) and Hyderabad (Sept 25). The matches against South Africa are scheduled for September 28, October 2 and 4. A completely different team, though, will contest the ODIs against the Proteas on October 6, 9 and 11.