The announcement also attempted to strike the balance between and pacers and spinners in India’s armoury for the World Cup
Pacer Shardul Thakur has been elevated from a standby player into India’s main squad, replacing left-arm spinner Axar Patel, for the T20 World Cup less than two weeks ahead of India’s campaign-opener versus Pakistan.
The national selection committee has also announced a list of eight cricketers who will “assist Team India in their preparations”, according to a statement issued on Wednesday.
“The All-India Senior Selection Committee after a discussion with the team management has added Shardul Thakur to the main squad” stated the release. “All-rounder Axar Patel, who was part of the 15-member squad, will now be on the list of standby players.”
Pace and spin balance
Wednesday’s announcement put an end to recent speculation about including certain players in India’s squad based on their Indian Premier League form. More importantly, the announcement also attempted to strike the balance between and pacers and spinners in India’s armoury for the World Cup.
The squad of 15 announced last month included just three pacers, including injury-prone Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and a whopping five spinners. Despite Axar having had an impressive outing in every format in 2021, with Ravindra Jadeja being a certainty in the XI as the primary all-rounder, the selectors were forced to take the decision.
In fact, an insider admitted that including Axar in place of Shardul, who can be handy with the willow as well, wasn’t a unanimous decision and came “as a surprise to some of the seniors in the squad”.
“Now that parity is restored, the balance of the squad looks much better, especially with Shardul’s consistency of striking with the ball even in middle overs,” he added.
Despite chief selector Chetan Sharma stressing last month on Hardik Pandya “will bowl in every match”, The Hindu understands that Pandya’s medical report remains non-committal about his availability for bowling. It is learnt that, after discussing with the team management, the selectors decided to persist with Pandya “since everyone feels he is the best finisher with the bat”.
Venkatesh Iyer, the Madhya Pradesh all-rounder who has impressed during the second leg of the IPL in United Arab Emirates, is a part of the eight-member support group which will primarily work as net bowlers ahead of the T20 World Cup. The others are pacers Avesh Khan, Umran Malik, Harshal Patel and Lukman Meriwala, along with spinners Karn Sharma, Shahbaz Ahmed and K. Gowtham.