The Indian team for the 2016 ICC World T20 to be held in India as well as the Asia Cup that will precede the tournament has been announced by selectors. As expected, there are not many surprises in the team. The core of the side that represented India in the three T20s in Australia, all of which they won, has been retained. The big, and perhaps, the only surprise is the selection of left-arm spinner Pawan Negi. He plays for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, which hints at the skipper possibly wanting him, and also represents Delhi in domestic cricket. Apart from spin, he is also a clean striker down the order.
In a rather surprising move and perhaps one forced by the lack of consistency shown by both Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the Indian selectors have gone in for Mohammed Shami. India’s leading pacer in recent times, Shami hasn’t played a single international match since the World Cup semi-final, in which India went down to Australia. Shami was slated to make a comeback on the Australian tour, but was ruled out due to injury again. Intriguingly, Shami has been chosen even though he hasn’t proved his fitness as yet. But, with the World T20 still a month away, the selectors felt it was worth a risk.
The big debate was undoubtedly going to be between Manish Pandey and Ajinkya Rahane for the final batsmen’s spot. While neither player deserved to get the axe, in the end, experience and versatility won over youth and dynamism. Rahane has done nothing wrong to be left out of such a major tournament at the last minute. He can offer a lot to the Indian team, in that he can bat in the middle overs, and get the big hits towards the end. Alternately, Rahane can even open the innings in case Shikhar Dhawan goes through a bad patch that he suddenly picks up.
Pandey, on the other hand, excelled in the only match that he played in Australia, ironically at the expense of Rahane, who had split his webbing in the previous game. Pandey came up with a splendid century in the final ODI of the series in Australia, which enabled India to pull off a victory at last, after faltering at the last hurdle on many occasions in the same series. He also has a highly impressive T20 record, considered among the most scorching talents to have come out of the IPL stable. He will have to wait patiently for his turn though, just like Rahane did before him.
While veteran left-arm pacer Ashish Nehra has been retained, there is no place for leggie Amit Mishra, who was one of the heroes of India’s World T20 campaign in Sri Lanka a couple of years back. Mishra would consider himself a bit unlucky, but perhaps India have enough spin firepower, especially in home conditions, with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja being backed by Yuvraj Singh and Negi. That is also why Axar Patel has been given the axe. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma are other experienced pacers who don’t find a place. Their current form did not merit one.
--By A Cricket Analyst