T20 World Cup: Not Rinku Singh’s fault that he missed out, says Ajit Agarkar

Captain Rohit Sharma dispels any doubt over Hardik Pandya’s selection

Rohit Sharma (left) and Ajit Agarkar at a press meet (photo: BCCI)
Rohit Sharma (left) and Ajit Agarkar at a press meet (photo: BCCI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The snub to finisher Rinku Singh in drawing up the 15-member squad for the T20 World Cup has been a contentious issue over the last two days. However, chief selector Ajit Agarkar cleared the air in a much-awaited press conference in Mumbai on Thursday, 2 May.

Agarkar and captain Rohit Sharma fielded a range of questions on the selection of the contingent that will strive to end a major title drought, spanning nearly 11 years, in the US and the West Indies next month.

‘’It’s not his fault, I think,’’ remarked Agarkar in response to a query whether the Kolkata Knight Riders batter’s lack of runs (and opportunities) in the IPL 2024 had anything to do with it.

‘’He is still one of the travelling subs. I know it can be a little bit tough on him. I think he missed out because of the team balance and we wanted to play an extra spinner,’’ the former Indian seamer said.

The choice of four spinners in Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal — with the first two being both left-arm finger spinners — seemed a bit skewed to many, especially given it means Rinku Singh is missing out while the pace attack looks anaemic. However, Rohit Sharma revealed it was his call: "The reason for four spinners I won't reveal now and will reveal in the West Indies. I personally wanted four spinners and Hardik (Pandya) as the seam-bowling allrounder. Axar and Jadeja being good batters and Kuldeep and Chahal being attacking spinners gives us a good balance.’’

The media briefing, which began at BCCI House almost one-and-a-half hours behind schedule, also saw muted criticism of master batter Virat Kohli’s strike rate. A section of the media had reported that the Indian team management was mulling a T20 plan without him; but Kohli’s form in the IPL, along with the BCCI choice to fall back on the old guard, meant the issue is now a no-go zone.  

‘’Experience matters a lot... There were never any talks regarding Virat Kohli's strike rate. There is no point over-thinking,’’ said Agarkar.

The other debate was, of course, on the inclusion of Hardik Pandya despite the lukewarm IPL he has had so far — not to speak of him being named as vice-captain. There is a school of thought that Jasprit Bumrah would have been a more logical choice as Sharma’s deputy; but Pandya’s stature, surely enough for a future T20 captain, made him the natural choice.

‘’As long as he is fit and available, we always wanted Hardik Pandya in the squad; there was never doubt over it,’’ Rohit Sharma said.

For the hitman, who like Kohli has not been part of the T20 scheme since India’s semi-final exit in 2022, it’s certainly a last shot at the World T20 title. Not many perhaps remember that a young Rohit Sharma was part of the 2007 Cup-winning squad under M.S. Dhoni. Will life come full circle for him, in an encore as captain himself?

‘’I was captain. Not being captain and then again captain: It’s part of life,’’ Rohit Sharma said in reference to himself playing under Pandya in the IPL. "Not everything will go your way. It’s been a great experience.

"Before also, I played under different captains. It’s nothing to me. I have always tried to do what’s required as a player and I have tried to do that in the last month too."

Backing his candidature, Agarkar added: ‘’(Rohit) has been a terrific leader. Six months between the 50-over World Cup and this one, we had to make some decisions. I know Hardik (Pandya) led in a few series; but Rohit has been terrific. It’s not like it was forced upon us.’’

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