IND squad for WC

Back in March, Virat Kohli successfully opened for India in the series-sealing fifth T20I against England and even admitted how he would “definitely like to partner Rohit” at the top going forward. But come the T20 World Cup squad, he’s not been picked as one of the three openers for India. In fact, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan are the “only three openers” in the squad, stressed BCCI Chairman of Selectors Chetan Sharma during the team announcement.

Kohli, who got unbeaten 80 off 52 balls in that game in Ahmedabad, had at the time opened in place of KL Rahul, who had scores of 1, 0, 0, 14 in the first four matches. The move, deemed “tactical” by Rohit Sharma after the game, allowed India to play a sixth bowler — the inability to do so being a constant pain point for the team management in the recent past.

Chetan, though, left the decision to play Kohli at the top to the team management. “If the management thinks that Virat should be played as an opener depending on the situation, then it’s up to them … What the circumstances are during the tournament that only till will tell but at this time, we only have the three openers I named,” the Chairman of Selectors said.

KL Rahul has been picked as a “genuine opener” in the squad and will keep wickets only if needed, Chetan said, while Ishan finds himself as the third opener on the basis of flexibility vis-a-vis his batting position and spin-hitting skills. He cut ahead of the likes of Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw to make a place in the squad.

“Ishan Kishan can bat as an opener as well as fit in as a middle-order batsman. He gave us a lot of options as a player. He’s already opened in the ODI format and even got a fifty in the first game. He’s also a good player of spin in the middle order,” Chetan said. “Also a left-hander is important. When legspinners from different countries come at us, someone explosive like Ishan is important. Shreyas hasn’t played much cricket of late so we have kept him in standby. That’s why Ishan made the cut,” he added.

While Kohli’s move to the top in Ahmedabad had allowed India to play Natarajan as the sixth bowler, the left-arm seamer doesn’t find a place in India’s squad for the T20 World Cup. Instead, India went with only three pacers in Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami, with Hardik Pandya being the fourth bowler, and it has a lot to do with the nature of pitches that could be in store in the UAE.

“Considering the wickets we could get, where only two fast bowlers play, there’s no point taking someone to warm the bench. It was better to take utility players who can come in handy,” Chetan said.

“We did discuss T Natarajan’s name but he hasn’t played cricket for long and he’s also been on the injury list, so we stuck to the main guys who are our strike bowlers. There’s always an intention to have some variation but because of the wickets that are expected, we decided on three fast bowlers with Hardik Pandya as the fourth bowler. In that case, it was difficult to include a left-arm fast bowler.

“Hardik is absolutely fit and he’s going to bowl his quota of overs in every match. We didn’t bowl him very often because we were saving him for the World Cup.”