Form in T20s may not be the right yardstick when judging players for an ODI or Test match series. However, IPL 2020 has been the only competitive cricket Indian players have played over the last eight months. Hence, the performance of the players in the recently concluded IPL is the only measure currently available to assess how the players may perform in the upcoming tour of Australia.
Most players in the ODI and T20I squads have had a good run of form in the IPL. However, a lot of players in the Test squad have struggled. Their failings in the IPL may not directly indicate their Test fortunes, but indifferent form always plays in the back of the minds of players.
Before the series begins, let us have a look at the players in the Indian squad who had a rough run in the recently concluded IPL 2020.
Players in the Indian squad who showed poor form in the IPL
Kuldeep Yadav (ODIs and Tests)
Kuldeep Yadav looked like he'd be a mainstay in all three formats for India until a couple of years ago. He had a brilliant start for his international career, before everything suddenly started going downhill. His confidence looks to have been completely battered, and he has cut a sorry figure on the field of late.
While he played all matches in IPL 2018, he played just nine matches and five matches in the subsequent seasons. And over five matches, all he could manage was a solitary wicket. The mere fact that an uncapped player like Varun Chakravarthy could keep him out of the KKR squad speaks volumes about the space he currently finds himself in.
As a result of this indifferent form, Kuldeep Yadav has been dropped from the T20I squad, but the selectors have persisted with him in the ODI and Test formats. Yadav has played just a solitary Test match in 2019, and is unlikely to find a place in the current playing XI R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. In ODIs, Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja are above him in the pecking order.
— Yuzvendra Chahal (@yuzi_chahal) November 14, 2020
Prithvi Shaw (Tests)
The last time Prithvi Shaw visited Australian shores, a lot was expected from the young talented opener. However, an injury during one of the warm-up matches ruled him out of the series. Things don't look as rosy on Shaw's return down under.
The 21-year-old is coming off a disastrous IPL season for Delhi Capitals, scoring 228 runs from 13 innings at an average of 17.5. He struggled against pace, bounce, and swing, getting out repeatedly to short balls and moving balls of length. The fact that he is going to the pacey bouncy pitches of Australia does not bode well.
With Rohit Sharma being called-up for the Tests in the revised squad, he will certainly start as the opener along with Mayank Agarwal. And KL Rahul may be used as a back-up opener in case of requirement. Hence, it remains to be seen if Prithvi Shaw will get a game in any of the four Test matches.
Ajinkya Rahane (Tests)
If there is one player who is certain to make the playing eleven, it is Ajinkya Rahane. He is the vice-captain of the Test squad, and could lead the side once Virat Kohli returns to India after the first Test.
After leading Rajasthan Royals to the playoffs in 2018 season of the IPL, he did not have a good start to the 2019 season from a team perspective, winning just two of the first eight games. The management handed over the captaincy to Steve Smith in the middle of the season, and Rahane was later traded to Delhi Capitals.
This year, the veteran right-hander had an IPL season to forget. He had to warm benches in the first half of the IPL, and could get a game only when Prithvi Shaw was left out due to an inconsistent run. Rahane could not find any sort of form in the rest of the IPL. He scored just 113 runs from 9 matches at a strike rate just over a run a ball.
After a difficult couple of years, the 32-year-old had a good run in Test matches in 2019 scoring 642 runs in the year at an average of 71.33. It needs to be seen if the transition to the red-ball format makes any difference to his form. India will be counting on that, since the team would need some solid performances at number 5. And in the absence of Virat Kohli, he may have to move up the order and play at the crucial number 4 position.
— BCCI (@BCCI) November 14, 2020
Rishabh Pant (Tests)
The explosive wicket-keeper batsman has provided real power in the middle for the Delhi Capitals over the last three seasons of the IPL, scoring at a strike rate of over 160. However, he could not deliver the goods this season. And it is really commendable that the Capitals reached the IPL final even with three of their top-order batsmen struggling for any sort of rhythm in the whole IPL season.
It wasn’t the runs that were the real concern, but the lack of any rhythm in his batting. The southpaw managed to score 343 runs IPL 2020 at an average of over 31, but a low strike rate of just 114, a sharp dip from the strike rates of over 160 that he has maintained in previous seasons. His poor form in this IPL, combined with some inconsistent performances in the ODI and T20I formats, has resulted in his omission from both limited-overs squads of India.
The selectors have kept faith in him in the Test format though. However, it needs to be seen who the first-choice wicketkeeper would be with Wriddhiman Saha also part of the squad. Saha had shown good form with both the bat and the glove in the IPL but missed the playoffs due to a hamstring injury. He is expected to be fit again by the time Test matches begin.
Umesh Yadav (Tests)
Umesh Yadav has been traditionally better off at the red-ball format, but Virat Kohli put a lot of faith in him during the previous couple of seasons of the IPL. Yadav repaid his captain’s faith y picking up 20 wickets in the 2018 season, but the 2019 season did not go well. Yadav went wicketless in both games he played for RCB, and went at almost 12 runs per over. The pacer was never brought back into the team for the rest of the IPL.
India will hope that the change in the format will help the 33-year-old get back into form. Yadav picked up 20 wickets from five matches in 2018, and 23 wickets from four matches in 2019. Apart from Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami, there are only two uncapped fast bowlers in the squad, Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj. Hence, Umesh Yadav is likely to make the playing eleven for the first Test, and his performance will be crucial for the side’s success down under.
Deepak Chahar (T20Is)
Deepak Chahar is not horribly out of form, but his IPL season did not meet his usual standards. The fact that he was injured towards the later part of 2019, and had missed more cricket than most players, could have something to do with this.
The numbers suggest that wickets were hard to come by for the seam bowler. Chahar’s wicket-taking ability, especially with the new ball, was crucial for the success of CSK last season, but he could not replicate that this year. While he picked up 22 wickets at an average of 21.91 in the 2019 season, he could manage just 12 wickets at an average of 33.
Deepak Chahar is part of the Indian T20I squad which is touring Australia. However, it needs to be seen if he manages to make the playing eleven with Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami and Navdeep Saini all in top form. He would need to find his wicket-taking mojo back once again to make a case for himself in the team.