The moment India's T20I squad was announced for the Windies and Australia series, there were eyebrows raised and social media witnessed a massive outburst of emotions. The eyes kept on searching for the name MS Dhoni in the squad but it was nowhere to be found. It appeared as if this was a mistake on the part of BCCI, which has a history of doing goof-ups while announcing squads and playing XIs on social media. Despite it being the richest cricket board in the world, BCCI has the most demotivated social media team working for them. Let's keep this debate for some time later.
Dhoni's exclusion spewed debate on social media. The former India captain has a major fan following who stick by him, irrespective of whether he delivers the goods on the cricket field or not.
But the message was clear. India were looking for a specialist T20I squad and Dhoni no more fits into the scheme of things. However, we might have to give credit to the same man for weaving in a culture like this a long time back. That being a big name will not hinder the selection.
BCCI selectors have been in search of a specialist T20I squad for a long time now and it seems the cards are falling in place with next WT20 just 2 years away.
Since the beginning of IPL, we have seen many league favourites getting entry into the squad on the back of decent performances in the tournament but there wasn't an honest dedication to form a specialist T20I squad.
During the New Zealand tour of India last year, things began to change. In Ashish Nehra's farewell series, two young turks were blooded into the squad - Shreyas Iyer and Mohammed Siraj. Both of them had had a great year in the previous domestic season. Their performances, however, did not do full justice to the selection back then.
In India's next T20I outing against Sri Lanka the same year, there were as many as four new faces in the team. Washington Sundar, Deepak Hooda, Basil Thampi, Jaydev Unadkat received the national call-up on the back of the good performances in the previous edition's IPL. While Unadkat was not really a new face, he was making a comeback in the Indian side after a long hiatus. Not to forget that Iyer and Siraj featured in this squad as well.
India next went to South Africa and the team management decided to fly veteran Suresh Raina to the rainbow nation as part of the T20I and ODI squads. It was yet another attempt to find some solidity in the middle order for India in the shortest format of the game. The constant chopping and changing continued to take place.
The Nidahas Trophy came in March and it saw the return of Hooda, Sundar into the side. There was another new face in form of Vijay Shankar. This was also the series in which Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni were rested, to arguably try two things: test Rohit Sharma as captain again after the success of Sri Lanka series and also Dinesh Karthik, who was improving as a T20 batsman. Both clicked for India as Rohit Sharma lifted the trophy after Karthik had hit the last-ball six in the final. Shankar's experiment, however, did not work.
When India toured England, Krunal Pandya, Deepak Chahar and Siddarth Kaul flew there for the T20Is, India won the series 2-1. And then Rohit led the team to yet another clean sweep against the Windies two days ago with a squad that featured another two new faces in Khaleel Ahmed and Shahbaz Nadeem while Krunal Pandya made his much-awaited debut.
This means that in every T20I series that India played in last one year, there were new faces in the squad, all of those who performed well in the short format of the game either in domestic cricket or in IPL.
With the series win over the Windies, we finally see a squad that has shaped up beautifully after a year of experiments.
Karthik has won the management's trust to keep the wickets while he continues to bat at No 4 or 5 in the line-up and his contributions have been crucial as well. There was a huge debate over his non-selection in the XI in South Africa when Dhoni continued to fail in the T20I series. With Dhoni intentionally making his way out before the Windie series, Karthik has guaranteed his position in the team as the wicket-keeper batsman for now.
India's top 3 — Rohit, Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan — has always looked powerful. Then, there's KL Rahul, who has been on fringes for a while now and has shown his ability as a T20I opener whenever he's got his chance. He averages 47.19 in T20Is and hits the ball at strike rate of 152.53.
Rishabh Pant, during the Windies series, showed why Kohli and selectors have backed him so much in the last one year. He is too good a batsman to be left out, especially in T20s.
In Krunal and Hardik Pandya, India now have two all-rounders, who have nerves of steel and can win matches for the side from any position. Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar need no real introduction. And in Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, you have two spinners, who have the ability to stop the flow of runs as well as pick wickets at regular intervals.
Not to forget, the bench is no less with likes of Khaleel, Siddarth and Manish Pandey waiting in the wings.
The other important point to note here is how selectors have tried and tested Rohit as the captain for India in T20Is. In the last one year, Kohli has led Indian T20I side in only three series - against South Africa early this year and then versus Ireland and England. While India won all of them, Rohit's emergence as a leader is heartening to see and a blessing, knowing the amount of load Kohli has on his shoulders.
Rohit led India against Sri Lanka last year successfully and then lifted the Nidahas Trophy in March, 2018. He captained India again against Windies recently, effecting a 3-0 clean sweep. Not to forget that India did not lose a single match in Nidahas Trophy. In fact, Rohit has lost just one T20I match in his short captaincy career, winning 11 of them out of 12. His record has been quite impressive.
So, with Kohli leading India well in Tests and ODIs and given the pressure and massive workload on his shoulders, it doesn't require rocket science to believe that Rohit, who has proved his mettle as T20 captain with three IPL trophies and recent victories, is an ideal choice for the role in the near future.
India have sorted their plans for T20Is as far as the squad is concerned. They have got rid of the old habit of using the ODI team to play the T20Is. This thought will benefit them as they go along preparing for the WT20, set to take place in 2020 in Australia.