The recurrent theme in the Indian squad for the upcoming Asia Cup and the ICC World T20 to follow is simple: no major surprises.
Read between the lines, and it becomes clear that the 15 names which the selectors announced on Friday is a ringing endorsement of the Mahendra Singh Dhoni way of thinking. With the T20 series whitewash in Australia, the Indian captain seems to have finally banished the inner and outer demons dogging him for long. The squad has his stamp written all over it.
Once India pulled off a 3-0 win Down Under in Twenty20 Internationals, two things became clear.
One, it indicated that the core of India’s T20 squad is sorted.
Two, Dhoni, the leader got a much-needed second wind before sitting across the table with selectors to chalk out a squad that he may intrinsically, instinctively trust during his quest to bring back the World T20 title.
Notice the inclusion, for instance, of Pawan Negi, which may qualify as perhaps the only surprise in a squad of 15. It’s not as if Negi’s domestic performance merited an instant inclusion. He has been reasonably successful in his domestic exploits for Delhi but if that alone was the criterion, then Amit Mishra should have been the been the first choice.
The veteran leggie has picked up 12 wickets for Haryana at 16.91 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and 8 wickets at 10.37 in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, with an economy-rate of under 7.
But the fact that selectors opted for Negi who played for Chennai Super Kings under Dhoni, proves that the captain imposes greater faith in him.
What also may have tipped the scale in Negi’s favour is that he is a utility player. While playing for Dhoni’s former IPL franchise CSK, at times batsman Negi had been sent up the order while he also bowled quite a few overs, sometimes even more than Ravindra Jadeja.
The focus on utility players in a squad which has only three ‘pure fast bowlers’ in Ashish Nehra, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami once again shows the selectors placed greater value in Dhoni’s opinion, who preference for players handling multiple roles is well known.
This could also explain why Manish Pandey couldn’t find a seat in the squad.
Asia Cup and World T20 Squad
MS Dhoni (c & wk), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Hardik Pandya, Ajinkya Rahane, Pawan Negi, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh and Mohammed Shami.