After the disappointment of this year's World Cup, Virat Kohli & Co. slowly shift their focus towards the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia next October. They have little more than a year to build a team capable of winning the title. After winning the World T20 title during the inaugural edition of the tournament, India have failed to add to it. Only once have the Men in Blue reached finals in the previous five editions.
India has no shortage of talent in the 20-over format, thanks to the Indian Premier League and various other state-based T20 leagues. With the tournament set to happen in Australia, India should try various options in the next few months and decide on their best XI for the tournament as per the expected playing conditions.
Majority of the current ODI squad will feature in the tournament but there are quite a few places up for grabs. India’s next T20 assignment starts in West Indies next month and this is the perfect time for the selectors to give opportunities to players who have performed well in IPL and other domestic limited-overs tournaments.
On that note, let’s take a look at five Indian players who can be nurtured for the T20 World Cup next year.
#5 Navdeep Saini
Navdeep Saini’s stock has been on the rise over the past couple of years. The 26-year-old fast bowler stood apart in Royal Challengers Bangalore squad which finished last in the Indian Premier League 2019. He bowled with a lot of heart in the tournament and troubled batsmen with his pace and bounce.
The Delhi seamer consistently clocked speeds of over 145 kph and even breached the 150 kph mark on occasions. He is one of the fastest bowlers in Indian cricket at the moment and making headlines for the right reasons. He has also picked up five wickets in the recently concluded List A game against West Indies A.
#4 Shreyas Gopal
Shreyas Gopal has been going through a purple patch at the moment. A genuine leg-spinner, Gopal has been amongst the wickets over the past few domestic seasons. The Bengaluru boy captured 13 wickets in 8 games during the 2018/19 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
He then played a key role for Rajasthan Royals in this year's IPL. The 25-year-old picked up 20 wickets in 14 games and finished as the fourth-highest wicket-taker in the tournament. He has taken his game to the next level and is currently under the radar of Indian selectors.
Despite being a leg-spinner, Gopal is consistent with his line and length, and also has a deceptive googly. His ability to score runs down the order and electric fielding make him a handy player to have in the T20 squad. Gopal deserves a run in the Indian team sooner than later.
#3 Shreyas Iyer
Calm, composed, and skilful are some of the words that best describe Shreyas Iyer's abilities with the bat. His ability to bat well against spinners in the middle-overs makes him an ideal candidate at No. 4 for India in the T20Is.
Iyer has had two good IPL campaigns for Delhi Capitals. In 2018, Iyer scored 411 runs at a strike rate of 133 and in 2019, he finished with 463 runs in 16 matches at an average of 31. He was also brilliant for Mumbai in the 2018-19 Vijay Hazare Trophy, with 373 runs in six innings at an average of 93.25, which included two thumping hundreds.
Iyer made his ODI and T20I debut for India in 2017 but was not able to nail down a place in the squad. However, with India struggling to find a consistent middle-order batsman, Iyer might be given an extended run in the team to solidify the line-up for next year's T20 World Cup.
#2 Khaleel Ahmed
The 21-year-old Rajasthan seamer made his way into the big stage during the U-19 World Cup in Bangladesh in 2016. Khaleel Ahmed made his first-class debut in 2017/18. However, his biggest break came during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy where he took 17 wickets in 10 games at an economy rate of less than 7 runs an over.
He then became a constant figure in the India A set up and played quite a few games. Khaleel possesses good pace and has the ability to swing the ball. He made his ODI and T20I debut in 2018 and has bowled some impressive spells at the international level.
He took 19 wickets in 9 IPL games for Sunrisers Hyderabad during the 2019 campaign. Though he missed out on making to the 2019 World Cup squad, he is one of the players to watch out for in the coming years.
#1 Rahul Chahar
Rajasthan leg-spinner Rahul Chahar has been doing extremely well over the past 12 months and is garnering praises from everywhere. Chahar made his IPL debut with Rising Pune Super Giant in 2017 and later moved to Mumbai Indians in 2018.
Chahar starred for his state in the 2018/19 Vijay Hazare Trophy as he finished as the team’s leading wicket-taker. He then went on to play a huge role in MI’s title win during the 2019 IPL campaign, where he took 13 wickets at a superb economy rate of 6.55.
The 19-year-old has proven that he is capable of playing at the highest level. In the recently concluded series against Sri Lanka A, he picked up an impressive 14 wickets in two first-class games. With age on his side, he has every chance to make it big on the international arena and should be groomed for next year's silverware event.