Bhuvneshwar, Chakravarthy back in squad; Samson misses out
India have named three of IPL 2020’s top performers – batsman Suryakumar Yadav, wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan, and allrounder Rahul Tewatia in their squad for the five-match T20I series against England that begins from March 12. The squad also has the returning Rohit Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rishabh Pant and Varun Chakarvarthy, but the injured Manish Pandey, Sanju Samson, and Mayank Agarwal, who were all part of India’s last T20I assignment in Australia late last year, have missed out on selection. Jasprit Bumrah is also not part of the squad.
These are maiden call-ups for Yadav, Tewatia and Kishan, who put on some of the most sparkling batting displays during last year’s IPL which ended shortly before India flew to Australia. Thirty-year-old Yadav is the most experienced cricketer of the trio, while 22-year-old Kishan – who made 173 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy hours before the squad announcement – has long been seen as a potential India player since breaking through with the Under-19 team. The pair of them formed a deadly combination in Mumbai Indians’ top three, particularly towards the end of their title-winning campaign in the UAE. Kishan takes the place of Samson, who was the second wicketkeeper in India’s last few series.
The selection of 27-year-old Tewatia, in comparison, is another case of a player transcending limitations in other formats and finding a path to the national team via the IPL. Like T Natarajan, who was called in to replaced the injured Chakravarthy – himself a product of T20 leagues – in Australia, Tewatia made his abilities known with stellar performances in last year’s edition, particularly an innings where he went from struggling on 5 off 13 to hit six sixes off his last eight balls to take Rajasthan Royals to victory against Punjab Kings. He played a few other key knocks of a similar flavour, while being Royals’ only fixed domestic bowler throughout their campaign.
Of the players returning to the squad, Sharma, Bhuvneshwar and Chakravarthy all missed out during the Australia tour through injuries. Pant though had been overlooked for those T20Is with India opting to trial KL Rahul as wicketkeeper. That experiment now appears to be put on hold with the young left-hander winning the team management’s faith with sublime performances in the Test series that followed.
Also coming back into the fray is Axar Patel, who made his Test debut as a replacement for Ravindra Jadeja last week, who continues to be in rehabilitation himself. Bhuvneshwar last played for India in December 2019, a T20I against the West Indies, and has been on the road back since missing a majority of IPL 2020 with a thigh injury and rehabilitating at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru. He played four games for his state side, Uttar Pradesh, in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, and completed a 10-over spell for them on Saturday against Karnataka.
He will likely lead India’s fast bowling contingent, which has Natarajan, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, and Shardul Thakur who make up a diverse and relatively experienced line-up. Mohammed Shami, who wasn’t part of the T20Is in Australia and who picked up an injury to his hand later in the Tests, remains absent. Among the batsmen, both Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan retain their places, as does Shreyas Iyer. Tewatia, Axar, Washington Sundar, and Hardik Pandya make up the allrounders, although it is still uncertain whether Pandya is fit enough to play in a bowling role. Yuzvendra Chahal is the only other wristspinner.
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo