With the T20 World Cup less than 10 months away, Team India's focus has firmly shifted to the T20 format.
Virat Kohli looks determined in the quest of winning his first ICC trophy as a captain. The Indian team has tried various combinations in a bid to form a strong squad for the competition. Also, injuries to some crucial players have resulted in opportunities for the fringe players to stake a claim for a World Cup berth.
India still have quite a few T20Is to play before they began their World Cup campaign, but some players have surely put their names ahead of others. Here, we analyze the performances of all the players who are in the fray for a place in the squad, and look at their chances of making it to the final 15.
Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul
India's top order has performed exceedingly well in the recent past. Rohit Sharma was in superlative form in the 50-over World Cup, and the team will be hoping for the same from the vice-captain in the T20 version as well.
KL Rahul has fought his way into the playing XI with some consistent performances. Rahul, who wasn't among the first-choice openers, made full use of Shikhar Dhawan's absence due to injury. The right-handed batsman looks in great touch at the moment and is now probably India's first-choice opener. He also provides a wicket-keeping option.
Also see – U19 world cup schedule
Shikhar Dhawan's low strike-rate in T20s has drawn a lot of criticism of late. Dhawan's form has been hot and cold in T20 cricket, and with Rahul impressing at every outing, the 34-year-old's place in the squad is far from secure.
However, with a good knock against Sri Lanka in the last T20, Dhawan, as of now, has kept his place in the side.
The dark horse
With the departure of Chris Lynn, Shubman Gill is expected to be given a longer run as an opener by KKR. If Gill does something extraordinary in the IPL, he might well be in with a chance.
Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul
Expect the team management to back the experienced Dhawan. However, he might not be the automatic choice in the playing XI.
Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer
Virat Kohli is going to be key, both as captain and batsman, for India's chances at the T20 World Cup. Kohli loves to play on Australian pitches where the ball comes on to the bat quite well. The Indian captain boasts a fabulous record Down Under.
Shreyas Iyer has made quite a statement post the World Cup 2019. The Mumbai batsman has showcased his hitting ability in both ODI and T20 cricket. His aggressive batting, especially against spin bowling, makes him a front-runner for a place in the middle order.
Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav
Manish Pandey has been in the Indian squad for a long time without getting much game-time. However, he has been in good form in domestic cricket, and has done reasonably well in the few opportunities presented to him.
The selectors will also have an eye on Suryakumar Yadav. Yadav was in sensational form in the Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy and if he can have a good IPL, he might get a look-in.
The dark horse
Nitish Rana has given glimpses of his talent in the IPL but hasn't really set the stage on fire. That said, with his ability to chip in with some useful overs with the ball, Rana can be a contender for a place in the middle order.
Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey
With the selectors strongly backing Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey, it is highly likely that they will be preferred in the final 15.
Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni, Sanju Samson
Post the World Cup 2019, the wicketkeeper's position in the Indian side has garnered much attention. MS Dhoni made himself unavailable for selection, which gave Rishabh Pant ample opportunities to cement his place in the side.
While Pant did play some breezy knocks, he has also been found guilty of playing loose shots - which means the wicketkeeper slot is still up for grabs. Sanju Samson seems to be in the scheme of things, but might find it difficult to penetrate into the 15.
However, the biggest question is whether Dhoni will make it to the squad. Dhoni hasn't played competitive cricket since the World Cup semifinals, and there are little signs of him making a comeback before the IPL. Needless to say though, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri would love to have Dhoni's experience in a big tournament.
Rishabh Pant (subject to Dhoni's availability)
In the current scenario, Pant seems to be the front-runner for the wicketkeeper berth. However, if Dhoni is available then it will be difficult to keep him out of the side.
Even though Hardik Pandya has been out of the game for quite some time, he continues to be India's first-choice all-rounder. India will want Pandya to regain full fitness at the earliest.
Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Krunal Pandya, Shivam Dube
Ravindra Jadeja and Krunal Pandya possesses similar skill-sets, thus making it difficult for the team management to include both in the 15. With Jadeja's much-improved batting, he is ahead of Krunal in the pegging order.
Washington Sundar provides variety to the Indian bowling attack with his off-spin bowling. Sundar has shown good control with the ball and has played a couple of useful cameos with the bat for Team India in the recent past.
There are no doubts about Shivam Dube's power-hitting abilities, but he needs to do more with the ball to be considered for the T20 World Cup.
Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar
While India have been exercising all available options, they might find it difficult to accommodate more than two all-rounders in the squad.
Yuzvendra Chahal has been exceptional for the Men in Blue in T20 cricket. Chahal has provided crucial breakthroughs in the middle overs and is sure to make it to the T20 World Cup squad.
Kuldeep Yadav, Rahul Chahar
Kuldeep Yadav does provide a wicket-taking option, but he hasn't been consistent enough since the World Cup. His chances hinge on his performance in the IPL, a tournament where he failed miserably last year.
On the other hand, it was the IPL where the young Rahul Chahar came into the limelight. An outstanding season for Mumbai Indians paved the way for Chahar's selection in the Indian team. He hasn't been given too many chances in the side so far though.
The dark horses
Shreyas Gopal, Ravichandran Ashwin
Shreyas Gopal had a spectacular season with Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2019. If the Karnataka spinner can repeat that performance, he might be a surprise pick.
If the selectors feel the need to get some experience in the side then they might turn to R Ashwin, who has made it very clear that he wants to represent India in the shortest format.
Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav
Team India might go with the tried and tested combination of Chahal and Kuldeep at the mega event.
With a barrage of fast bowlers in the mix, Jasprit Bumrah is the only fast bowler who is sure of a place in the squad. Bumrah will be leading an explosive Indian fast-bowling attack in the T20 World Cup.
Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur
India have a problem of plenty in the pace department. Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini and Shardul Thakur have got an extended run owing to injuries to the leading pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. All the fast bowlers have performed well since then, and are in contention for a place in the final 15.
Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Deepak Chahar might be injured at the moment, but expect them to be in the side once they are fit. Navdeep Saini has troubled the batsmen with his pace and will be a handful on Australian pitches.
Shami and Thakur, despite good performances, might be the unlucky ones to miss out.
Final squad prediction
Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (c), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (wk)*, Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini
* subject to Dhoni's availability