On November 12, a day after India were outplayed in the T20 World Cup semifinal by England, TOI had reported that the T20I team was slated to see a major overhaul with Hardik Pandya being a hot candidate for captaincy and that the veterans would be asked to focus on next year’s ODI World Cup.
As it turned out, Pandya was handed the T20I captaincy for the Sri Lanka series as Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul’s names went missing. TOI can confirm that Rishabh Pant has been asked to report at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) from Jan 3 for strengthening sessions for 15 days as he recovers from a knee niggle.
“Pant was told in Bangladesh that the team wants him to be in absolute shape soon for major assignments next year. He has been given a week’s break because you can’t start intense strengthening sessions immediately after a Test series,” a BCCI source said.
(Hardik Pandya – AP Photo)
But here’s the catch.
The team management, led by coach Rahul Dravid, had brought in a lot of youngsters for the T20I format after last year’s debacle in the T20 World Cup. Eventually, the team management played it safe and fell back on veteran stars.
Even this time, the BCCI has not given any reason behind excluding Rohit, Rahul, Kohli and Ashwin. It is understood that the BCCI mandarins had a word with Rohit on his future and he insisted he was available to lead in all formats.
However, these are baby steps taken by the selectors led by Chetan Sharma, who themselves don’t know if they will continue in their positions after a few days.
The biggest development has been KL Rahul being sacked as vice-captain in the ODI format with Hardik taking over the role.
“Rahul is walking a tightrope. His approach towards his batting and captaincy have looked insipid. He is comfortable batting down the order in ODIs. He is reluctant to open,” the source said.
(KL Rahul – Photo: BCCI Twitter)
“As far as Kohli and Rohit are considered, they have been conveyed that they should focus on the ODI World Cup. The team management has been looking to move on from Shikhar Dhawan in ODIs for a while and this could be the first step. But the likes of Ishan Kishan and Shubman Gill will have to step up. The next T2O World Cup is 20 months away. It’s time to rebuild that team.”
Hardik is being seen as the firebrand leader that can transform this team.
“Hardik has been very vocal about India lacking urgency in white-ball cricket. He advocates all-out aggressive cricket. He likes to take responsibility and keep his mates charged in the dressing room. The board is mulling to give Hardik a bigger role in ODI cricket as well,” the source mentioned.
(Jasprit Bumrah – Getty Images)
Pacer Bumrah’s all-format availability in doubt
The selectors are very cautious about bringing pace ace Jasprit Bumrah back into international cricket. The chief selector had admitted that Bumrah was rushed back ahead of the T20 World Cup, which resulted in him breaking down.
“Bumrah is a tricky subject. He will be used for marquee Tests and the white-ball format which has a World Cup approaching. It’s unlikely he will play all formats round the year,” the source said.