With a clinical performance against the touring Sri Lankans, India have started the new decade on the right note. A huge series against Australia has begun today and the men in blue will certainly be fired up for that, having lost a home bilateral series to Aaron Finch’s side last year.
The year 2020 though will see all the attention concentrated on cricket’s shortest format. With the T20 World Cup coming up in October, teams have started zeroing in on a pool of players who could be going to Australia.
India have done the same, creating a nice core team for the world event. Players like Navdeep Saini, Washington Sundar and Deepak Chahar have been given opportunities in T20 cricket, and they have repaid the faith of the team management. We should expect to see a lot more of them in the months leading into the World Cup.
However, there are a few players who would be looking to get a few more opportunities to prove their worth to Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri before the event Down Under. Here’s a list of three players who should be given a long rope in the buildup to the World Cup:
#3 Sanju Samson
Since the conclusion of the 2019 Cricket World cup, a new debate has emerged in Indian cricket – who the correct replacement for MS Dhoni should be.
Rishabh Pant was touted to be the man at first, having impressed with Test centuries in England and Australia. However, some batting failures, coupled with an apparent lack of temperament and below-par wicketkeeping skills, have opened up the debate once again.
Pant has done well in 50-over cricket over the past few months, but his returns of 410 runs in 25 innings in T20 cricket is poor to say the least. And that is why, now would be the perfect time for Sanju Samson to step up.
Samson burst onto the scene as a young teenager in the IPL under the captaincy of Rahul Dravid. He has tremendous natural ability to go with a good head on his shoulders. His calmness during pressure situations is exactly what India need while chasing targets.
Samson has also been in scintillating form in domestic cricket, having scored a 129-ball 212 for Kerela not long ago. If the team management can show confidence in him for a long period of time, he could be a game-changer come the World Cup.
#2 Shardul Thakur
One player who has progressed by leaps and bounds in the past few months is Shardul Thakur. At the start of the West Indies series he was seen as a backup for the injured Deepak Chahar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. However, some clever bowling and newfound power hitting at the end of the innings have made Thakur a serious contender to make it to India’s World Cup squad.
The Mumbai player was earlier seen as a specialist new-ball bowler, having done well for Mumbai in four-day cricket. But Thakur has worked on his game, by adding some variety to his bowling while also immensely improving his batting. His cameos of 22* and 17* against Sri Lanka and West Indies respectively were crucial for India.
With Virat Kohli inclined to go in with six bowling options, Thakur could be the perfect player to bat at No. 8 after Hardik Pandya and Washington Sundar. In the months leading into the World Cup, it might not be a bad idea for Kohli to give more opportunities to Thakur to test his death bowling and batting in crunch situations.
#1 Shikhar Dhawan
The last 12 months have been quite eventful for Shikhar Dhawan. The southpaw went into the World Cup not in the best of form, but put all doubts to rest with a scintillating hundred against an Australian attack comprising of Mitch Starc and Pat Cummins.
Just when it seemed that the Delhi batsman was back to his best, he got hit by a spate of injuries. Dhawan missed the remainder of the World Cup and has not been a consistent member of the Indian team for the better part of the year.
With KL Rahul finding his range as an opener, the 34-year-old Dhawan’s place in India’s limited overs setup seems in danger. The left-hander did come back to the team in style with a stroke-filled 50 against the Sri Lankans. However, Rahul has done exceptionally well in T20 cricket, and Dhawan might be the one to miss if the selectors give greater weight to recent form.
That said, the team management should give Dhawan some opportunities to open the batting before the World Cup. Dhawan is still hungry for runs, as he showed against the island nation, and will be looking for a chance to defend the slot that has been his for so long.