Sanju Samson has never enjoyed the backing of the team management while Riyan Parag and Abhishek Sharma were ignored despite good showing with the bat in the Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the national T20 tournament.
Barely have Indian cricket fans got over the heartbreak of the World Cup final defeat to Australia that they have another international series to look forward to.
Strange are the ways of the BCCI that a high-profile full-fledged five-match T20I series between India and Australia has been reduced to a sideshow — scheduled four days after the completion of the ODI World Cup, which stretched for nearly a month-and-a-half.
Like the players, the overdose of cricket can have a bearing on the fans too even in a cricket-mad country like India.
Fans will still flock to the stadiums to watch the five games, four of which are being played in venues which didn’t get to host World Cup matches — Visakhapatnam, Thiruvananthapuram, Guwahati and Raipur.
The series, at best, will feel like a contest between the A teams of the two countries, with many of the regulars who featured in the World Cup getting a deserved rest.
India are fielding a completely new-look team. They are blessed with a vast pool of talent to choose from, especially in T20 cricket, courtesy of the IPL.
It is clear that Indian cricket is looking towards the future as far as T20s is concerned with the World Cup next year.
The World Cup squad, barring Suryakumar Yadav, who will lead the team, was given a rest, along with Ishan Kishan and Prasidh Krishna.
Shreyas Iyer, also a part of the World Cup team, will join the side as vice-captain for the final two T20Is.
All the top performers in the IPL, including Yashasvi Jaiswal, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Shivam Dubey and Ravi Bishnoi, were rewarded with a place in the 15-member squad.
The squad mostly consists of young players, many of whom featured in India’s gold medal-winning campaign at the Asian Games.
Suryakumar, at 33, is the most experienced player, with Shivam Dube, Jitesh Kumar and Mukesh Kumar the other three who have crossed 30, while the rest are in their 20s.
As always, the announcement of the squad did raise a few eyebows.
The absence of fan favourite Sanju Samson has become the talking point on social media as is the case with Yuzvendra Chahal.
Samson, who missed out on a place in the World Cup team, has struggled to make an impact in T20 Internationals. He has been a consistent performer for Rajasthan Royals in the last few IPLs with 350-plus runs in the last seven seasons but somehow hasn’t been able to replicate the same form at the highest level.
In 11 innings in T20 Internationals since February 2022, Samson has made 257 runs, with just one half-century, at a strike rate of 147, falling for under 20 in six of those innings.
The selectors have moved on to other young options in the middle order in Ishan Kishan, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh and Shivam Dube.
Sanju must consider himself unlucky, as despite being rated as one of the most talented batters in the country, he has never fully enjoyed the backing of the team management.
Unlike Suryakumar, who was persisted with for the World Cup despite a poor record in ODIs, or Kishan, who has struggled in T20 Internationals, Samson hasn’t found favour with either the team management or the higher ups in the BCCI to push his case.
Chahal has also been out of consideration in India’s white ball teams in the last year or so. He played all the five T20Is against the West Indies in August but failed to make a mark after which he has not been picked for the shortest format.
It is clear that performances in the IPL will get preference over the Mushtaq Ali Trophy — the national T20 tournament — in terms of picking players for the Indian T20 team.
Assam and Rajasthan Royals’ Riyan Parag, who was the top-scorer in the Mushtaq Ali Trophy didn’t get a call-up despite hitting 510 runs in 10 games at a strike rate of 182, with seven fifties.
Young all-rounder Abhishek Sharma, who played a key role in Punjab’s Mushtaq Ali title triumph, with 485 runs at a strike rate of 192 — including two centuries and three fifties — was also not considered.
KKR leg-spinner Suyash Sharma took 18 wickets in seven games for Delhi at an impressive economy rate of 4.6, while senior pro Bhuvneshwar Kumar rolled back the years with 16 wickets at an economy rate of 5.84.
India’s squad for Australia T20s: Suryakumar Yadav (Captain), Ruturaj Gaikwad (vice-captain), Ishan Kishan, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Jitesh Sharma (wicket-keeper), Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Shivam Dube, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan, Mukesh Kumar. Shreyas Iyer will join the squad as vice-captain for the final two T20Is in Raipur and Bengaluru.
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