Lowest-ranked MI has four India's T20 World Cup starters, top two teams, KKR and SRH have no representatives | Crickit
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Lowest-ranked MI has four India's T20 World Cup starters, top two teams, KKR and SRH have no representatives

May 22, 2024 07:15 AM IST

Four MI players, integral to their core, will be part of Team India's starting XI when they begin their World Cup campaign against Ireland in New York on June 5

Mumbai Indians had their worst season ever in the IPL, finishing at the bottom of the points table. Only once in history have they finished at number 10. This does not augur well for Team India in the upcoming T20 World Cup in the Americas, which will be underway on June 2.

Mumbai Indians' captain Hardik Pandya (R) gestures as Rohit Sharma looks on(AFP)
Mumbai Indians' captain Hardik Pandya (R) gestures as Rohit Sharma looks on(AFP)

Four MI players, integral to their core, will be part of Team India's starting XI when they begin their World Cup campaign against Ireland in New York on June 5. More worryingly, three of them, including the captain and vice-captain, were in poor form in the most prestigious T20 league in the world.

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On the other end of the spectrum, the two top teams this season at the IPL – Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad – have no representation at the World Cup. Rinku Singh is on the flight to the Americas but only as a reserve player!

The larger question that then arises is this: Have the selectors been too cautious and given preference to reputation and seniority over form? Should recent performances in the most competitive T20 league in the world be given no weightage? And how will their team’s performance in the current season of the IPL affect the Indian players at the World Cup?

4 MI players in India’s starting XI at World Cup

No IPL franchise has more Indian representation at the T20 World Cup than MI. While Jasprit Bumrah was exceptional and the highest-impact bowler of the tournament, the other three massively under-achieved this season. Suryakumar Yadav, the best T20I batter in the world, had a poor tournament by his lofty standards, failing in six of 11 innings.

Skipper, Rohit Sharma is one of the greatest batters in T20 history but was in woeful form for the most part of the IPL this year. He failed in half (7 of 14) of the innings he batted and looked listless towards the end of the MI campaign. The problem for Rohit is that his numbers for MI have been below par for the last eight seasons! Rohit has crossed an aggregate of 400 just twice since 2017 while his scoring rate did not exceed 135 between 2017 and 2023! Will Rohit’s personal form affect his leadership at the World Cup? Is he in the right frame of mind to captain India at the marquee event?

Rohit’s deputy, Hardik Pandya, poses a bigger challenge. Hardik has lost his X-factor with the bat and is no longer the destructive batter he was for MI in 2019 and 2020. He has largely played as an anchor/accumulator in the IPL in the last few seasons. Hardik’s strike rate of 143 this IPL season was abysmal, given his role and position in the line-up. He was also expensive with the ball conceding at a rate of 10.75! The captain and the chief of selectors were not in favour of picking Hardik for the World Cup. Not only was he included, but he was also handed the vice-captaincy, which guarantees him a place in the starting XI! Was that the best decision for the team? Will the controversies on and off the field during the IPL not affect Hardik at the World Cup? Will the criticism of his captaincy for the Mumbai Indians hamper his performance in the world tournament?

No representation from SRH and KKR

SRH and KKR have redefined T20 batting in this season of the IPL. They have hammered 100+ in the powerplay, broken the records for the highest team totals and match aggregates and smashed the most sixes in a display of batting which has been unprecedented in the history of any T20 tournament ever! Abhishek Sharma has played his part in this carnage for SRH – no batter has cleared the ropes more times than the SRH opener and neither has any one been more destructive against spin.

Should India have taken a risk and included him, if not in the main 15-man contingent, at least in the reserves for the World Cup? Even Australia is flying Jake Fraser-McGurk to the Caribbean as an extra after his exploits this season at the IPL!

T Natarajan also missed the bus despite his brilliant returns in the death overs this season where he bagged 10 wickets at a strike rate of 8.6! Were Khaleel Ahmed and Avesh Khan better choices as reserves?

Rinku Singh did not have a great IPL this season – not because he was out of form – but mainly due to a lack of opportunities in the lower-order. But given his destructive prowess with the bat in all T20 cricket in the last 12 months and the need for a finisher in the lower-order, wasn’t Rinku an automatic selection for the World Cup?

What about Varun Chakaravarthy? He is the leading wicket-taker amongst spinners in IPL 2024 and the unsung hero for KKR in their campaign this year, and there is not even a conversation around his selection. Isn’t the leg spinner potentially a bigger match-winner than Axar Patel on the slow, low, often two-paced, and unpredictable wickets in the Caribbean?

It is quite odd that the two franchises who have dared to be different, taken risks and played a brand of cricket which could change the T20 format forever, find no Indian representation at the World Cup.

The ICC deadline for naming the final squads for the T20 World Cup is the 25th of May. Maybe the BCCI could have waited till the end of Qualifier 2 before sending in its final 15? That way, the current form of the players in the biggest T20 league in the world could have had a little more say.

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