At a time when Mahendra Singh Dhoni was under immense pressure from most quarters to handover Team India’s limited-overs captaincy to Virat Kohli, most celebrated Ranchi man bailed himself out with a perfectly timed reminder of his leadership acumen, in the recently concluded tour Down Under.
After a 1-4 drubbing at the hands of World Champions, Dhoni & Co. made an emphatic turnaround in the three-match T20I series by blanking the Aussies at their home soil to create history.
Besides, it was quite satisfying to see the glimpse of old Dhoni, known for his cameos down the order and presence of mind in pressure cooker situations. Watching Dhoni play his trademark helicopter shot, still titillates the cricket lovers to the core. And Captain Cool showed all these traits against the Aussies, ahead of the coveted ICC World T20.
Mahi is yet again looking all powerful, the way he used to be in N Srinivasan’s era. And it was clearly visible last week, when the BCCI announced T20 squads for the forthcoming Asia Cup and World T20.
Barring the inclusion of all-rounder Pawan Negi, there was no surprise in store. India's World Cup squad was exactly the way Dhoni indicated it to be, after crushing Australia 3-nil. “There might be one or two changes based on the conditions in the World T20, but this is roughly what our T20 side will look like," Dhoni revealed during post match interview after 3rd T20 in Australia.
Dhoni’s stamp was all over the squad, when the most powerful and richest cricket board announced the much-anticipated 15-member squad.
All-rounder Negi played a lot under Dhoni's captaincy for the now suspended IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings. Certainly, that’s not the sole criteria for the diminutive player to break into the World Cup squad, but the youngster definitely got the preference ahead of experienced all-rounders like Pathan brothers – Irfan and Yusuf.
Doubtful Mohammad Shami’s inclusion again proved how much trust Dhoni has in the pacer, who is certainly a better choice than axed players like Umesh Yadav, Bhuvenshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma, if he regains full fitness in time.
Dhoni’s penchant for all-rounders in T20 format is not new. That’s the reason selectors opted for Hardik Pandya and Negi, while a specialist batsman in Manish Pandey, who announced his arrival at the international stage with a power-packed ton in Australia, was ignored.
Still the squad looks complete, with all-rounders and a decent mix of youth and experience, which was hailed by Indian cricket fraternity.
“This is a good team, in my view a leg-spinner would have given more options but selectors have stuck with the same team. The balance of the team in Australia was terrific and that balance hasn’t changed. In fact inclusion of Negi and Shami has strengthened the squad,” said former Indian skipper Sunil Gavaskar.
The only concern is the pace battery, which comprises just three bowlers – Ashish Nehra, Shami and Jasprit Bumrah. Shami’s fitness ahead of the World T20, which is now hardly a month away, is a major concern for the side. Ageing and fragile Nehra also has a knack of picking injuries every now and then. And even after impressing many in the recently concluded tour Down Under, Bumrah still lacks exposure at the international level, something which is crucial in such global tournaments.
But then, selectors didn’t have much options either as they fetched the best available. Considering the fact that the big event will be hosted by India, it’s needless to say that under leadership of Dhoni, who already has all the major ICC trophies in his cabinet, Men in Blue would remain the side to beat.
Now Dhoni has a series against Sri Lanka and then the Asia Cup to assign specific roles to each member of the squad ahead of the World T20, to be played from March 8 to April 3.
Team India Squad for World T20: MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Ajinjkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Ashish Nehra, Pawan Negi, Mohammed Shami