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Early Predictions: Which Men Could Make India’s T20 WC Squad On The Back Of IPL 2021?

Virat Kohli and others celebrate after picking a wicket
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As things stand, India have no T20Is scheduled until the T20 World Cup in 6 months, which means the IPL might be the only short-form cricket most Indian players are involved in until October. Fortunately, the Indian Premier League offers the closest thing to competitive international cricket and most Indian players who have excelled for their respective franchises have gone on to represent the Men in Blue. The proof of the pudding lies in just the recent weeks leading up to this IPL – IPL stars such as Suryakumar Yadav, T Natarajan, Ishan Kishan and even Prasidh Krishna have taken to the international stage like a duck to water thanks to their prior IPL experiences and the step up to the national team doesn’t seem as big anymore.

Given the lack of T20 cricket post the 30th of May, these 14 games will be incredibly important for anyone wishing to stake a claim to make the India squad for the World Cup. While most spots in India’s squad are already certain – including Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and potentially Washington Sundar too – there are still plenty of places in the team and the overall squad up for grabs and a good IPL could make all the difference.

At this moment, the Indian team have an embarrassment of riches to choose from for their WC squad so here are some contenders that could throw their name into the mix (or back into the mix) on the back of this IPL.

Shikhar Dhawan


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Shikhar Dhawan was dropped for the final four T20Is against England in favour of Ishan Kishan and has now fallen down the pecking order at the top. In the past, Dhawan has been criticised for his low scoring rate but he did well to improve on that in the UAE edition of the IPL, where he was the second-highest run-scorer in the tournament with 618 runs at an impressive strike rate of 144. If Dhawan could continue in this vein for Delhi this season, it would be difficult to leave him out of the squad given his pedigree in ICC tournaments.

Sanju Samson


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“How is this guy not playing for India” is something we hear on commentary every season once Sanju Samson plays a blinder of an innings in the IPL. The answer unfortunately is plain and simple, his inconsistency. While Samson’s intent and strike rate are unmatched amongst his contemporaries, he has only one 400+ run IPL season and has struggled to perform over 14 games. After a poor showing in Australia, Samson was dropped from the Indian team for the England series in favour of Rishabh Pant and given the competition in the middle order, it will be tough for Samson to get a look in. However, as captain of the Royals this season, Samson has a chance to prove his doubters wrong and give the selectors another headache with a strong showing.  

Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav


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Both Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav have graduated from the Mumbai Indians system and were mightily impressive on debut against England. The pair of them offer something different to India as they both play with the modern “intent” that is needed in today’s game. Kishan gives India an ultra-attacking opening option alongside Rohit while Yadav can be used anywhere in the middle order as an enforcer. Both Yadav and Kishan have made themselves impossible to ignore following their strong IPL performances over the years and another good outing with Mumbai in 2021 should be enough to guarantee their place in India’s World Cup Squad.

Dinesh Karthik


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Dinesh Karthik is the forgotten man in Indian cricket after a disappointing IPL 2020 where he lost the captaincy to Eoin Morgan and was shuffled up and down the order for KKR. Nevertheless, Karthik shouldn’t just be overlooked for the upcoming WC because of his age and is still one of the best T20 finishers in the game. Since IPL 2019, Karthik has scored over 200 runs at a strike rate of 200 in the death overs and can also be the backup keeper in the squad.

Ravichandran Ashwin


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Despite all his red-ball heroics, R Ashwin hasn’t featured for India in white-ball cricket since 2017 but considering the scarcity of spinning options India have at the moment, one shouldn’t rule out a surprise return for Ashwin in the shortest format. The off-spinner did have a respectable season with Delhi in the UAE, where he was used to good effect in the powerplay and picked up 13 wickets in the tournament. Virat Kohli believes that a return for Ashwin is unlikely given the form of his Tamil Nadu team-mate Washington Sundar but another successful season in the IPL could make Ashwin impossible to ignore. 

Varun Chakravarthy


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Varun Chakravarthy has been called up to the Indian team twice since his breakout IPL season in the UAE but injuries and fitness issues have hampered both selections thus far. Chakravarthy was outstanding for KKR in IPL 2020, picking up 17 wickets at a strike rate of only 18. Given his nascence in the T20 scene, there is still an air of mystery surrounding his action and batsman have still not been able to work out all his variations which could make him India’s trump card at the World Cup in October.

Rahul Chahar and Ravi Bishnoi


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It is unlikely India move away from Yuzvendra Chahal as the leg-spinner in the squad but two players with an outside chance of a call up on the back of a good IPL are Ravi Bishnoi and Rahul Chahar. Chahar replaced Chahal in the latter half of the T20 series against England and bowled admirably while Bishnoi offers something different in terms of his flatter and quicker trajectory and higher proportions of googlies. 

Third Seamer Option (T Natarajan, M Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur)


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Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah will occupy two of the fast-bowling spots in India’s XI but the jury is still out over who the third option will be. India have plenty of choice in this department but none of the options have stood out from the rest as of yet. That is why this IPL will be incredibly crucial for the fast-bowling quintet wishing to get to the World Cup. Bowlers like Chahar need to display their effectiveness and wicket-taking ability in the powerplay while Thakur, Natarajan and Saini need to work on their pace and death over skills to give themselves the best chance to make the squad or final XI.

It’s often the battle of the best vs the best in the IPL but the implications of this IPL are multi-fold in a year where individuals could potentially not just ensure future franchise contracts, but leave an imprint as a T20 World Cup player (or Champion) and become permanent household heroes across a country of 1.2 billion people!


[Image Credit: Indian Cricket Team]