Cheteshwar Pujara is back in the test squad and he pretty much forced that decision to the selectors with his dashing form in the County Championship. How do you ignore 6, 201*, 109, 12, 203, 16, 170* and 3? The selectors may have also taken into account another reason in his recall: in the first four Tests of the series that will end in Edgbaston, he was arguably India’s best-performing midfielder, with his series average of 32.42 being the essential contributions he made. His strikes of 45 (from 206 balls) and 61 in the third inning helped India drag their way back to victory after leading in the first innings at Lord’s and The Oval respectively, and he scored the highest score for India with 91 in their defeat at Headingley.
However, a lack of match training could be a more direct reason for Ishant’s non-selection; he hasn’t played competitive cricket since a couple of Ranji Trophy matches in February-March, and those were his only matches since India’s home test series against New Zealand in November 2021. But with India’s tempo reserves constantly growing, one wonders where Ishant gets its next chance to grab attention and demand a recall.
In the past three IPL seasons, Prithvi Shaw has achieved a strike rate of 152.84 in the power play. In the middle overs, Sanju Samson, meanwhile, has racked up strike rates of over 150 against both pace and spin. No other India contender comes close to matching those records.
Kishan (attack rate of 120.11) was far from his best during IPL 2022, while Venkatesh Iyer (average of 16.54, strike rate of 107.69) has had a season of horror. But both have retained their place in the T20I squad, suggesting that the selectors support the players they have identified as long-term prospects, and that IPL form is not a guarantee of selection or a deal breaker.
It also helps that both are left-handers who can bat in multiple positions, with one offering a wicketkeeping option and the other a sixth bowling option.
IPL 2022 has been a goldmine for India’s selectors in terms of the sheer number of uncapped fast bowlers who have impressed with their pace, skill and execution under pressure. Of that group – which also includes Mohsin Khan and Mukesh Choudhary – two have been called up to the T20I squad for the first time.
Hardik Pandya would always come back to India’s white ball plans as soon as he went bowling again. And he hasn’t just started bowling again; his speeds have often surpassed 140 km/h, he has made the smartest use of hard lengths and tempo changes, and he sent down his full quota of overs in his first four matches of IPL 2022. A groin problem has since reduced his bowling output, but India doesn’t necessarily need him to bowl four overs every game. If he can bowl two while hitting the ball at even 80% of his potential, he would face the most T20 lineups in the world.
However, if he can seize the opportunities he gets during the series against South Africa, Karthik could still make a big case for being chosen as India’s reserve goalkeeper for the T20 World Cup.