Since its inception in 2008, the Indian Premier League has been the primary feeder for the country’s selectors when it comes to picking India’s T20I squads. Success in the IPL has been the ticket to higher selection, for runs scored and wickets taken when competing with many of India’s and the world’s best cricketers is highly valued.
The likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohit Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sreenath Aravind, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Rishabh Pant, Deepak Chahar, Yusuf Pathan and most recently, Venkatesh Iyer and Ruturaj Gaikwad have broken into India’s white-ball squads on the basis of one eye-catching IPL season. Others, such as Ashish Nehra and Robin Uthappa, used the IPL as a tool to break back into the Indian cricket team.
In 2022, a third into the 15th season of the IPL, there are some names making the right noises and some players who are struggling. We have so often heard the BCCI selectors cite the IPL as the road to India’s T20I squad. So far, on current form, there are players who possibly do not merit a place at the World Cup and some who should get the nod. Five months remain before the World Cup squads must be named, but the question has to asked: how seriously will the selectors look at IPL 2022?
To break into any of India’s three teams is very tough given the competition. A batsman like Shreyas Iyer is seemingly jostling for one spot in India’s T20I lineup alongside Suryakumar Yadav. Shreyas came into the IPL with scores of 80, 25, 57*, 74*, 73*, 27 and 92 across formats. With Suryakumar out with injury, this kind of batting raised visions of Shreyas having moved ahead of him in the pecking order. But in the IPL, the former has one fifty in six innings while Suryakumar, after missing two games for Mumbai Indians, has 200 runs in four innings at an average of 66.66 and a strike-rate of 153.84.
Since he was appointed India’s all-format captain in early 2022, Rohit Sharma has averaged 23.66 from 12 innings with one fifty. In IPL 2022, he averages 19 with a strike-rate of 129.54. He has gotten starts but not crossed 40. He has been out to pace and spin. He has been asked about his poor form, and replied in typical manner. Rohit is India’s captain and so will not be dropped for the World Cup later this year, but if his poor run continues, India have a big problem.
Virat Kohli’s batting woes have been also extended in IPL 2022. In six innings for Royal Challengers Bangalore, he has made 119 runs with a best of 48 while striking at 125.26. Twice he has been run out when relying on his tip-and-run approach. In a glittering career, this is the closest Kohli has come to having his place in India’s T20I team questioned.
Of the top five wicket-taker of IPL 2022, three are wristspinners. Yuzvendra Chahal sits atop the pile with 12 at 11.33 apiece and at third is Kuldeep Yadav who has claimed 11 at 14.72. This pair won India many white-ball matches between between 2017 and 2019 and if they keep taking wickets, the likelihood of Chahal and Kuldeep teaming up in Australia increases. Chahal was surprisingly omitted from India’s 2021 T20 World Cup squad for Rahul Chahar, who did not get a game, and since moving from RCB to Rajasthan Royals – a move he publicly said surprised him – he has been in superb bowling form. Similarly, Kuldeep has been very potent for Delhi Capitals since he was released by Kolkata Knight Riders.
Part of Capitals’ current predicament has a been a lack of wickets from Axar Patel, and with Ravindra Jadeja a certainty for the World Cup, the case for a second left-arm spinner diminishes rapidly.
Of India’s possible openers at the T20 World Cup, Rohit is woefully out of form, his Mumbai team-mate Ishan Kishan has faded away after successive half-centuries and KL Rahul is second on the IPL 2022 table with 235 from six innings. Should Kishan continue to struggle for Mumbai, it is foreseeable that a resurgence in form by Gaikwad, who has overturned a poor start with Chennai Super Kings, could see them swap roles in India’s World Cup squad. With Rishabh Pant India’s number one wicketkeeper, should Kishan not make a strong comeback in IPL 2022, the window for Dinesh Karthik also opens.
Granted that two thirds of the tournament remains, but Karthik’s role as finisher for RCB has been outstanding: 197 runs in six innings, average 197, strike-rate 209.57. Karthik, who will turn 37 in June, has been dismissed just once while pulling off some outrageous finishers for RCB. Fit, hungry and in superb touch, he could be making a case for a recall well over two years since his last game for India.
Similarly, with Venkatesh Iyer going through a sophomore slump with KKR and Hardik Pandya in the middle of a stellar run with Gujarat Titans, a direct swap looks on the cards. Hardik last played for India during the 2021 T20 World Cup, but during the ongoing IPL has made a successful comeback as an allrounder with 228 runs at a strike-rate of 136.52 and four wickets. Crucially, his pace has been good and he’s opened the bowling and delivered at the backend of innings. Venkatesh was selected to play ODIs and T20Is for India after a very good IPL 2021 and with Hardik injured, but on current form his place looks in danger.
In the pace-bowling stocks, the absence of Deepak Chahar for the entire IPL 2022 has left the selectors hoping that the seamer recovers and makes a suitable comeback before the World Cup. Jasprit Bumrah’s off-colour performances for Mumbai so far may just prove a passing irritant, given his pedigree, but in the current situation it has become customary to look at other Indian pace bowlers. Umesh Yadav’s resurrection as a Powerplay bowler for KKR has perhaps been the most pleasing aspect of any fast man’s achievements so far in the tournament, but whether or not it puts him in line for the World Cup remains to be seen. India have struggled to take wickets in the first six overs in T20Is over the past two years, and thus Umesh’s consistency has been noteworthy.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s place in T20Is has been questioned, and a middling run with Sunrisers Hyderabad has not yet given indications as to whether he will make it to the World Cup. If the BCCI selectors are looking at a shot of pace in Australia, then the young uncapped SRH pacer Umran Malik has certainly made heads turns. After an expensive couple of outings, Malik has cranked up the pace and started to take wickets. Though in possession of an economy rate exceeding nine runs per over, young Malik’s ability to hustle with pace – he clocked 152kph during his team’s fourth successive win – and take wickets is promising. Against Punjab Kings, Malik finished with a triple-wicket maiden 20th over and figures of 4/28.