The new BCCI President Sourav Ganguly feels India is the best team in the world. He said that with conviction. It may be true in Test cricket and also in the ODI format but India don’t seem to be at their best in the shortest format. In fact, T20 can be termed as their weakest link.
It is a format where they have consistently produced inconsistent results. You’ll see winning streaks in Tests and ODIs but India have hardly managed to have a streak in T20Is. Yes, the nature of the format is fickle but that is not the sole reason either.
There are maybe a couple of reasons why India haven’t been as successful as they have in the other two formats. One of the major points is the consistency in selection. Key players like Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and others are likely to be rested on and off but apart from that, there has been a lot of chopping and changing in personnel. Moreover, another reason may be not giving too much heed to the shortest format with not much to play for.
Hence, with the T20 World Cup only a year away, things have started to heat up. India play Bangladesh in a three-match series starting early November. They have named a 15-man squad and there are quite a few regular names missing, including that of Kohli with India continuing to test players. But that hasn’t been working so far.
In order to be invincible in the shortest format, they will need their best players. Thus, here are five player-swaps from the current 15-man squad that could make this team invincible.
Virat Kohli for Sanju Samson
The first and inevitable change would be that of skipper Virat Kohli. How can a team go in without arguably the best all-format batsman in the world? There is no batsman in the world who averages in excess of 50 in each of the three formats. His record in T20Is is excellent too. He is the leading run-getter (2450 runs) in the format and has more fifty-plus scores (22) than any other player in the history of T20Is.
Moreover, in the last two World T20s (2014 and 2016), it was Kohli who almost single-handedly led India to the final and semi-final of those tournaments respectively. Also, there may not be a better chaser in the game at the moment. Kohli’s hunger for runs is known to everybody and hence, it’s a no-brainer that he will slot back in at No. 3.
It is a touch hard on Sanju Samson who hasn’t got a lot of opportunities. The Kerala cricketer has played just one T20I for India which was back in 2015. Moreover, he has been performing well in the IPL and also, for Kerala in domestic cricket. But Kohli being the best batsman in the world means that he will simply have to slot back in.
Jasprit Bumrah for Shardul Thakur
Shardul Thakur has replaced Navdeep Saini in this Indian current T20I squad. Thakur has been in and around the Indian team but Jasprit Bumrah’s comeback will force them to leave him out. If Kohli is the arguably best all-format batsman, it won’t be wrong to say the same about Bumrah as far as the bowlers are concerned.
There are only a few bowlers around the world who can match the skill and ability of Bumrah across all formats. The Gujarat fast bowler has become India’s premier fast bowler across all formats in a very short span. That is mainly because of his consistency.
In white-ball cricket, he can make an impact with the new ball but it is his ability and skill at the death which makes him stand out. There are very few bowlers who can bowl the yorker as well as Bumrah. Let alone the yorker, the pacer also has a well-disguised slower one and a sharp bouncer which makes him lethal. Teams often look to play him out at the death. Hence, even if he’s not taking wickets, he is building pressure from his end. Hence, Bumrah’s addition adds a whole new dimension to this bowling attack.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar for Khaleel Ahmed
India have had quite a bit of success with Bumrah. But that increases when Bhuvneshwar Kumar joins him in the attack. The Bumrah-Bhuvi duo have been India’s potent weapons with the new ball and then also at the death. The duo execute their plans really well at the death and there is pressure from both ends.
Yes, Bhuvneshwar’s form has dipped in the 50-over format but he has been very good in the shortest format. Moreover, he won the Purple Cap in the IPL twice in a row (2016 and 2017). He has quite a few variations up his sleeve and alongside Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar has found good success as well.
India need a left-arm option (Khaleel Ahmed for now) but when you have a quality duo in Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar, there’s not much to look into. Bhuvneshwar’s fitness might be an issue and hence, India need a replacement ready. Thus, Navdeep Saini could be one. The Delhi pacer has the ability to hit the bat hard and can trouble the batsmen with pace. Thus, India could go in with Saini or Bhuvneshwar to complement Bumrah in the pace attack.
Shubman Gill for Shikhar Dhawan
As soon as you see the name Shikhar Dhawan, you would question why him. Why would India want to break the tried, tested and famed opening duo of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan? But to be fair, the Delhi southpaw hasn’t been at his best in the shortest format. He may have had a great 2018 as far as T20Is are concerned but his overall numbers don’t tell a great story.
Dhawan has tended to struggle in T20Is and has an issue with forcing the pace of the innings. Hence, there is a need for change at the top. People might suggest KL Rahul for the XI but overall, Shubman Gill might be a great addition to this line-up. Be it in the XI or not, Gill can definitely add a lot of value to this team.
The Punjab top-order batsman has already shown that he is the future. He has the ability and hunger to bat big and put up tall scores. Moreover, with Rahul’s batting showing quite a bit of tentativeness and Rohit wanting to bid his time at the start, Gill could be the perfect addition. Moreover, there is little fuss to Gill’s game and has had a good start to his domestic career.
Dinesh Karthik for Shreyas Iyer
One of India’s problems have been playing players out of position. Shreyas Iyer is definitely not a No. 5, especially in the T20 side. With Rishabh Pant batting at 4 and the all-rounders to follow from No. 6, there needs to be someone who can don the finisher’s role at 5. At the moment, there may not be a better player than Dinesh Karthik.
The Tamil Nadu stumper showed exactly what he is capable of in the Nidahas Trophy final last year. He hasn’t really got a long rope over the last couple of years. He’s constantly been in and out of the side. Yes, maybe he hasn’t done justice to his ODI spot but his T20I place was affected by his ODI form.
Even in the Vijay Hazare Trophy this year, he showed his ability to thrive under pressure and win his team (Tamil Nadu) matches from difficult situations. Thus, Karthik may be an ideal replacement for Iyer. He can float around the order and can be a real game-changer.
Hardik Pandya for Washington Sundar
Hardik Pandya ended India’s eternal search for a seam-bowling all-rounder. Be it with the bat, ball or in the field, the younger Pandya has the ability to make an impact everywhere.
He is someone who can constantly give a few overs and moreover, he has a knack of picking up wickets and break partnerships. With the bat, Pandya can start hitting sixes from ball one and very few players in the Indian team can do that. Moreover, he is a livewire in the field which has become another important cog in modern-day cricket.
With so many spinners around, despite Washington Sundar’s good run, he might have to miss out. Pandya offers more with the bat and hence, he will be India’s finisher and also, the floater if India need quick runs.