T20 World Cup: Tough call by Indian selectors to keep KL Rahul out

Shubman Gill finds himself among the reserves; ‘Kul-Cha’ duo reunited

Multi-tasker KL Rahul had to make way for Sanju Samson in the World T20 roster (photo: BCCI)
Multi-tasker KL Rahul had to make way for Sanju Samson in the World T20 roster (photo: BCCI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The suspense over the Indian squad for the T20 World Cup finally ended on Tuesday afternoon with the powers that be taking a few tough calls – no room for KL Rahul, Shubman Gill relegated to reserves along with the potential finisher Rinku Singh.  It will be perhaps a last chance saloon for captain Rohit Sharma to end the title drought for Men in Blue in major ICC tournaments for 11 years now in the marquee event, to be held in the US and the West Indies from 1-29 June.

 While no Indian squad has ever passed muster without the storm in a teacup among the zillion fans, chief selector Ajit Agarkar has decided to bite the bullet – of course with the buy-in from BCCI supremo Jay Shah. The announcement came after a meeting between the two in Ahmedabad while the blueprint was reportedly finalised after a lengthy discussion between Agarkar, Rohit and head coach Rahul Dravid in Mumbai on Sunday.

If there was a buzz in the media that the Indian board wanted to keep master batter Virat Kohli out of the equation from the T20 format, the former captain showed he still ‘has it in him’ by leading the race for the Orange Cap in the IPL 2024 as it heads towards the business end. As the World T20 begins in less than a week after the final of IPL on May 26, the current form in the league has been given cognizance – with a few exceptions like Hardik Pandya.

It's not a surprise to see the senior allrounder named as the vice-captain as he was being groomed anyway to take over the leadership in this format – till the long lay-off after the freak injury in the last 50-overs World Cup put paid to his dreams. Casting aside the negative perception created about him in recent times on being hoisted as the Mumbai Indians captain, there is no denying that Pandya can bring the much-needed balance to the squad which lacks an additional specialist batter in the absence of Rahul.

If the return of Rishabh Pant to the national squad after 15 months is easily the biggest heartening feature, so is the coming together of the ‘Kul-Cha’ combination in the spin department after quite a while. The reputation of the wickets in the Caribbean being slow turners and the somewhat unpredictable nature of the newly laid turfs in the US sees India fitting in four spinners in the side and Chahal’s recent form and experience has given him the nod over young Ravi Bishnoi.  

 The selectors have certainly gambled big time in preferring wicketkeeper-batter Sanju Samson over Rahul, the multi-tasker who has never shied away from any challenge thrown at him. It must have been the biggest dilemma for the decision-makers as Rahul, still a future captaincy material in other formats, can bat anywhere in the top order between number one and five and had excelled as a wicketkeeper barely a few months back in the World Cup at home.

 However, the selectors have done the proverbial biting the bullet as they put a premium on Samson’s ability to be a game-changer – along with his sublime form in the current IPL. The news will certainly bring good tidings for the fans in his home state Kerala as he is only the second cricketer from the state after S. Sreesanth to feature in a World Cup squad.

 India will begin their campaign against Ireland on 5 June, 2024 at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, New York followed by their marquee clash against Pakistan on June 09, 2024, at the same venue. They will then play the USA and Canada on 12 and 15 June, respectively.

Squad: Rohit Sharma (Captain), Hardik Pandya (Vice Captain), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (WK), Sanju Samson (WK), Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Siraj.

Reserves: Shubman Gill, Rinku Singh, Khaleel Ahmed and Avesh Khan.

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