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India T20 World Cup squad – Rohit definitely wanted four spinners

The Indian selectors picked four spinners in their 15-man squad for the 2024 T2024 World Cup because Rohit Sharma wanted them, although he was yet to reveal his reasons for doing so.

“I don’t want to go into it too much, I’m sure the opposition captains are listening to this,” Rohit said in Mumbai. “I definitely wanted four spinners. We played a lot of cricket there (Caribbean). We know what the circumstances are. Because the morning starts from 10:00 AM to 10:30 AM, there is a small technical aspect involved.”

India picked left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal and left-arm spin all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel in their provisional 15, leaving room for just three specialist fast bowlers and no slot for Rinku Singh. Chahal was not part of India’s T20I squad for their two most recent series – in South Africa in December and against Afghanistan at home in January – and was selected for his impressive form in IPL 2024.

“Maybe I will give more details in the first press conference (after landing),” Rohit said about picking four spinners. “The reason for four spinners is this, which I am not going to say in public. But I definitely wanted four spinners. With two of the spinners being batting all-rounders, Axar and Jadeja, and two attacking spinners – Kuldeep and Chahal – this gives you the balance in the spin department. Based on the opponent’s team composition, we can decide what we want to play with.”

Dube selected for middle order power

While Rohit would not get drawn into the discussion of whether Virat Kohli could be his opening partner in place of Yashasvi Jaiswal, he emphasized the need for more power in the middle order, leading to the selection of Shivam Dube.

“All we really looked at was batting middle overs,” Rohit said. “The batting at the top level was good, not bad, but there are also options. In the middle overs, we wanted someone to come and play that role where he can play freely, without worrying about who is bowling and who is not. We chose Shivam Dube based on the IPL and also a few games before the IPL.”

Dube has been in explosive form for Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2024, his 350 runs coming at a strike rate of 171.56, and he is third on the charts this season with six hits. He was also the highest run-scorer in the T20I series against Afghanistan in January, with 124 runs in three innings at a strike rate of 158.97. Rohit also expected Dube to contribute with the ball when required, even though he has bowled just one over in his first ten matches in IPL 2024.

“I know Shivam hasn’t bowled a single over yet, but he is a seasoned cricketer who bowls a lot of overs in red-ball cricket,” Rohit said. “Honestly, if we need Shivam to bowl a few overs, he will bowl a few overs. Also Hardik, he bowls regularly in the IPL. Whenever necessary, he came to bowl. Like Ajit (Agarkar) said, he has come and played all the matches, there are no problems fitness-wise.”

Why KL Rahul missed it

India’s decision to pick Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson as the two wicketkeepers ahead of KL Rahul had to do with their ability to bat in the middle order.

“KL is a great player, we all know that,” said chairman of selectors Agarkar. “The thing is, we were looking at guys batting in the middle order, and right now KL is at the top.”

When it was pointed out that Samson will be at No. 3 for Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2024, Agarkar said, “We think Sanju has the ability to move down the order if required, Rishabh has played at five-six. That was more thinking about the slots we needed. These two were better at this point. Guys spending a little more time in the latter part of the innings at the World Cup, that was the idea.”

After a serious car accident in December 2022, Pant made a successful comeback in IPL 2024, scoring 398 runs in his first 11 innings for Delhi Capitals with a strike rate of 158.56, and proving that his wicket-keeping skills are back at their best goods. Samson has 385 runs in nine innings for Royals, with a strike rate of 161.08.

‘Exclusion of Rinku one of the toughest decisions’

The exclusion of Rinku Singh was the ‘toughest’ decision the Indian selectors had to make while building the squad.

“He (Rinku) has done nothing wrong and neither has Shubman Gill. It’s just the combinations,” Agarkar said. “We are not sure about the conditions we will get (in the US) and we wanted to have enough (bowling) options.

“We had a few wrist spinners to give Rohit more options, I don’t think it has anything to do with Rinku. It’s not his fault he missed, it’s more the 15 we thought we needed. With two goalies who are both great hitters, we will have an extra hitter. We are yet to have a bowling option but he is still one of the traveling replacements. He was that close, but we can only take fifteen.”

Rinku played 15 T20Is for India and scored 356 runs at a strike rate of 176.23. However, he has had a quiet IPL 2024: 123 runs off 82 balls in eight innings at a strike rate of 150.