2019 is over and yet another World Cup year has approached. This time, the T20I version. And for India, the story so far holds more uncertainty than they had for the 50-over format. Since the last tournament, in 2016, India have fielded 45 players to narrow their final possibilities to 15 for the impending edition, slated to begin in October in Australia. But with just eight more international games (as of now) and an entire Indian Premier League season to go, the team management have only few months to lock-in on the final 15 for WT20. But problems are a plenty for India amid the big injury concern of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and a bigger question mark over MS Dhoni’s presence.
In this article we take a look at the performance of the Indian cricket team and its players in the format over the last two years and come to a conclusion over the final 15 with statistical reasons while also mentioning players with outside chances.
India's BIG secret is out!
India are the best chasers in the T20I format. Since 2018, India have won 14 of their 17 matches while chasing, which included their recent chase to 208 (their highest successful run chase ever) against West Indies in the first T20I. However, when put to bat first, India have failed to defend the total on eight out of 17 occasions - hence providing opponents with an almost 50 per cent possibility of winning the match, when they win the toss. And the difference only lies in the way the team has approached the powerplay.
The team tends to start at a much slower rate in losing causes compared to matches where they have won, while batting first. India's powerplay run rate in matches lost has been 7.2 compared to a run rate of 9.5 in matches won. India have also lost half (6) as many wickets in matches won while batting first than in games where they faced defeat. In fact, in the first scenario, India have gone wicketless in the powerplay only once compared to five instances in the second scenario where India did not lose a wicket in the first six overs.
Moreover, India's strike rate and boundaries per game has been substantially more in winning cause than in the matches they have lost. And the respective numbers remain high in the middle and the death overs for matches won.
|Powerplay numbers in matches won while batting second|
|Run rate||Dot balls||Strike rate||DPB||BR|
India's powerplay numbers are high in matches they have chased compared to matches they have lost while batting first. India score at an average run rate of 8.45 and strike rate of 140.87 in matches where they are chasing a total. However, the dot ball percentage is higher while chasing compared to when the team is batting first.
However, the team's dismissal per match rate (1.4) while chasing is almost similar to that when India have lost games while batting first (1.5) and have gone wicketless only twice in the first scenario. And captain Kohli has been the driving force behind India's success in chasing. Kohli has been involved in 50 per cent of matches in which India have won while chasing, since start of 2018, scoring 368 runs at an average of 122.66 with five half-centuries.
|Matches lost while batting first||7.9||34.45|
|Matches won while batting first||6.13||15.76|
|Matches won while batting second||7.85||26.3|
The story has been the same for bowlers as well. The bowling unit averages less than half in matches won while batting first, compared to matches lost while batting first. India's bowling performance is also better in matches they won while fielding first.
The general consensus is Rahul is fighting for a spot against faltering Dhawan, in India's T20I squad despite his impressive numbers as a batsman. In seven matches he has opened for India. Rahul has scored 351 runs at 50.14 an average with five half-centuries and a strike rate of 157.39. His average and strike rate are both better than Rohit (34 and 144.15) and Dhawan (33.13 and 134.59), although the latter two have played 32 and 30 matches respectively over the last two years.
However, when the performance of the three are divided into two categories - powerplays and batting thereafter (since 2018)- Rohit stands out with Rahul standing only a tad behind. His strike rate and boundary rate in the first six overs are a dominating 178.83 and 49.4%, respectively, followed by Rahul - 157.60 and 34.4%. However, for Dhawan, he tends to start slow, striking at a rate of 128.71 however, his boundary rate is the second-best in powerplays - 36.92.
Rohit's average strike rate falls only by 14.32 on moving past the powerplays, while Rahul's stays the same. For Dhawan, it tends to increase by 10.38, but the strike rate still stands lower than that of Rohit and Rohit. Moreover, Rohit, in 32 matches since 2018, has batted till the death overs on three occasions while remaining unbeaten twice.
An untested middle-order (again)
Top-four dominance: The combination of Kohli, Rohit, Dhawan and Rahul has been responsible for 60.40 per cent of India's total runs over the last two years. The four have together scored 3304 runs at 36.71 with three centuries and 24 half-centuries. The dominance has left the middle-order lineup untested.
Manish Pandey has the most runs as a middle-order batsman since 2018, averaging 58 in 15 opportunities and faces stiff competition from Shreyas Iyer, who averages only 28.60 in the eight matches he has played last year. Rishabh Pant is another option who finds his place in the lineup uncontested despite a low average of 19.62 and strike rate of 123.62.
The MS Dhoni question: Well “January” has arrived, yet no sign of Mr. Dhoni, eh? Since India’s World Cup exit in July, Dhoni has not played another international game, missing South Africa, Bangladesh and the West Indies series at home. And with just eight more international games left, Dhoni still stands a big uncertainty. If he or the team management opts to exclude him from the World T20, Pant will remain the wicketkeeping option for India, despite his poor numbers. But India do need to figure it out quickly. Dhoni’s absence means they will be missing one BIG finishing option – he still holds an impressive strike rate of 149 in the death overs while being dismissed only twice and remaining unbeaten four times.
India’s finishing options: The one best finisher that India had, hasn’t been part of the setup since March 2018. Dinesh Karthik has scored 228 runs in 142 deliveries over the last two years at a strike rate of 160.56 and having a boundary rate of 22.53 while remaining unbeaten 10 times. While chasing, he owns a strike rate of 157.85 while remaining unbeaten seven times and has an astounding strike rate of 195.06 in the death overs and having a boundary rate of 29.62.
India’s next best option is Hardik Pandya who has a strike rate of 192.06 in the death overs while having a boundary rate of 26.98 and remaining unbeaten four times. And overall, while chasing, he has a strike rate of 200.
The happy headache
Since 2018, India have fielded 22 bowlers (including all-rounders), but only four are certainties for the World Cup - Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Deepak Chahar and all-rounder Hardik Pandya. Although, both Bumrah and Pandya are yet to play a T20I match since their injury in September. Meanwhile, Bhuvneshwar Kumar would also add up to the certainty list, but his recent injury and uncertainty over his participating even in the IPL season, throws a huge question mark over his presence in the squad.
Chahar has played just 10 matches since 2018, and he has already left a strong mark, especially as a new-ball bowler. He has taken nine wickets with the new ball and averages only 16.11 - the best among all Indian bowlers. He hence will form a strong powerplay combination with Bumrah.
Another option who has just made his T20I comeback after almost two years is Mohammed Shami. After an impressive Test and ODI numbers for India over the last year, Shami was called up as a back-up for the T20I series against West Indies and in the decider he picked a wicket each with the new and the old ball while conceding 25 runs. He also had his best IPL season last year picking 19 wickets in 14 matches at 24.68. Besides, over the last two IPL seasons, Shami bowled 15 yorkers at death, picking three wickets and conceding 16 runs only.
The tale of the two wristspinners has been the most striking story in India's bowling lineup. For a year on since the last Champions Trophy, the pair dominated on all tracks and against every opponent before being smashed by Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow at Edgbaston last year. While Chahal continued through, even showing his talent in the death overs, Kuldeep struggled. And following a torrid IPL 2019 (four wickets in nine matches at an economy of 8.66), Kuldeep failed to mark his return amid growing competition and Kohli's want for batting depth.
Chahal, in fact, stands a strong possibility with 26 wickets since 2018 - the most among Indian bowlers - 65 per cent (17 wickets) of which came in the middle overs. Kuldeep has been downgraded to the contender spot while despite managing 25 wickets in half as many matches than Chahal. Moreover, Kuldeep is more effective in the middle over than Chahal, managing 23wickets at an astounding average of 10.65. But with no T20I appearances over the last one year, Kuldeep lost his spot from the certainty list.
"Having two wristspinners is a big advantage when you will playing in Australia on big fields," Kohli had said recently. "There might be some games where both might play together but in T20 cricket, as I mentioned, it's all about balance.
"Predominantly we see one guy [wristspinner] playing with Jadeja and Washi [Washington] because it gives us all kinds of variety in the bowling attack - along with the two seamers and the allrounder, the seaming allrounder.
Replacement for Hardik Pandya?
Hardik is the only player able to provide balance to the Indian squad. The management tried five other possibilities which even involved the process of excluding Chahal and Kuldeep from the squad in a bid to add batting depth to India's lineup. But the experiment has failed. Shivam Dube was seen as a strong prospect, but his only notable performance came against West Indies in Thiruvananthapuram when he scored his maiden international fifty after being promoted to number five. Besides, he has gone wicketless in five of the six matches he has played in the format. Hence, Jadeja, Washington Sundar and Krunal Pandya stand as only next best alternative.
Why India holds the advantage with KL Rahul as wicketkeeper?
Although Rahul has donned the keeping gloves for RCB, he hasn’t had the opportunity to do the same for India owing to the presence of Dhoni. But with the latter’s future uncertain, Pant having a poor run of form and only other alternative Sanju Samson being more of a top-order batsman, the team management can opt for Rahul as their wicketkeeper. This would give India a batting depth that Kohli desires in place of Pant.
With Rahul, Kohli, Rohit, Iyer, Bumrah, Chahal, Chahar and Hardik confirmed for the playing XI (keeping Dhoni question aside), India would like to add someone like Manish Pandey at No.5 or probably rethink the DK factor and put him ahead of Hardik and add two more bowling option – Shami being one and the other between Krunal/Jadeja/Sundar – to complete Kohli’s desired six-bowling option in the lineup.