The 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2020) will begin on 29 March in Mumbai, and will conclude with the final at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on 24 May. The player auction for the 2020 edition was held at Kolkata in December last year.
Among the changes for this year’s edition include an All Stars match which will be held three days prior to the start of the main tournament. Further, a separate umpire will look after the no-balls in the wake of the huge controversy that erupted over Lasith Malinga’s missed no-ball in last season’s encounter between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Every year, the IPL is seen as an opportunity for players to put their name in contention for national selection. However, with the T20 World Cup to be held in Australia in the second half of the year, this season’s IPL assumes even greater significance.
Here’s a look a three Indian cricketers whose place in the T20 World Cup squad could hinge on their performance in this year’s IPL.
#3 Shikhar Dhawan
As of now, Shikhar Dhawan has a 50-50 chance of making the T20 World Cup squad. While his performances in the format over the last 12 months have been far from encouraging, it is no secret that the left-hander enjoys the confidence of the team management.
Since the start of January 2019, Dhawan has featured in 15 T20Is and has scored just 356 runs, at an average of 25.42. Despite being an opener, he has only one fifty to his credit, which came against Sri Lanka in Pune at the start of the New Year.
The southpaw hasn’t looked fluent during most of his visits to the crease during this period, putting additional pressure on Rohit Sharma and skipper Virat Kohli.
His fitness is also a concern. Starting with the ODI World Cup last year, Dhawan has been constantly in and out of the team owing to various injury issues, some of them freak. In his absence KL Rahul has made a significant impact, and has definitely booked his place for the T20 World Cup.
Dhawan will need a good IPL to push his case for a berth on the flight to Australia. He has a stellar IPL record, with 4,579 runs in 159 matches. Fitness permitting, the left-hander will be raring to make another big statement in the T20 league.
#2 Rishabh Pant
12 months ago, the talented Rishabh Pant was seen as a natural replacement for MS Dhoni. But things have changed drastically since.
After making an impression during the Tests tours to England and Australia in the 2018-19 season, Pant failed to replicate his success in the shorter formats. On the contrary, he has struggled both in front and behind the stumps across all versions of the sport.
In 28 T20Is since making his debut in February 2017, Pant has managed only 410 runs at an average of 20.50 and a strike rate of 121.66. Since his unbeaten 65 against West Indies at Providence in August 2019, his scores read 4, 19, 27, 6, 18, 33 not out and 1 not out.
An injury to Pant saw KL Rahul take up the keeping duties in the limited overs formats, and since then the 22-year-old hasn’t managed to find his way back into the playing XI. Rahul had a brilliant T20I series in New Zealand as India blanked the opponents 5-0, even as Pant warmed the benches.
Pant would now look to take the IPL route to put his name back in the reckoning for the T20 World Cup. Under current circumstances that seems a tough job, but a brilliant IPL might force the selectors to have a rethink.
Pant has a wonderful IPL record, which should boost his confidence for the challenge ahead - 1,736 runs in 54 matches at a strike rate of 162.69, with one hundred and 11 fifties.
#1 MS Dhoni
This will be a very tricky decision to make for the selectors. MS Dhoni hasn’t turned out for India since the team’s World Cup 2019 semi-final exit against New Zealand. He hasn’t been given a new contract by the BCCI either.
However, India’s World Cup and World T20-winning captain hasn’t announced his retirement from international cricket. One doesn't really know what to make of the entire suspense.
Outgoing chairman of selectors MSK Prasad had sometime back stated that India had moved past Dhoni. Head coach Ravi Shastri, however, contradicted the statement, claiming that it will all depend on Dhoni’s performance in the IPL.
“There is an IPL coming. Uske baad tum Dekho. Everyone will know. (Then you’ll see. Everyone will know) He will know, selectors will know, the captain will know to see him, and more important than anything else he will know. What I’m trying to tell the people is he is the last person to impose himself on anything. You know him. I know him,” Shastri said in an interview to Sportstar.
On the another hand, former Indian captain Kapil Dev opined that while it would be difficult for Dhoni to make a comeback, the IPL could make a difference. “If you haven’t played cricket for so long then I don’t think you can come back from anywhere. But he still has IPL, his form there will be important and selectors should see what is best for the country,” Kapil told ABP News.
Dhoni himself has maintained pin-drop silence over the question every Indian cricket fan and critic is asking.
He will yet again lead Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, and if he manages to impress, he might get one last shot at glory. Dhoni's IPL record speaks for itself - 4,432 runs in 190 games at an average of 42.20 and a strike rate of 137.85.
How much more he has left in the tank, we will know in a couple of months.