RP in contention for World Twenty20
The IPL assumes relevance in different ways to different parties but for India's selectors it has provided a happy headache or three. Barely two weeks after the IPL finishes in South Africa on May 24, Indian players from the various teams will come together to defend the World Twenty20 crown. The deadline for announcing squads is May 5, so in all probability the composition of the squad going to England will be revealed tomorrow.
The Twenty20 squad of 16 that went to New Zealand had a solid and settled look to it, the 2-0 loss notwithstanding. The IPL, though, has brought two more names in the fray: RP Singh and Abhishek Nayar, though the Mumbai Indians allrounder is only an outside chance.
The selectors had one preliminary meeting in Cape Town on April 24, in the presence of N Srinivasan, the board secretary. Whether they will need to meet once again is uncertain.
RP, back to the scene of India's World Twenty20 triumph, has discovered close to the same form that took him to No. 3 on the wicket-takers' list then. Two years later he has donned the purple cap for the longest period in the IPL, and is currently the second-highest wicket-taker. But his way back is not that simple: none of the three pace bowlers he can replace - Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma are beyond this debate - has done badly so far.
Irfan Pathan has provided Kings XI Punjab with early breakthroughs regularly and backed that with quick and important runs. Munaf Patel has had just two really ordinary games, one when Sourav Ganguly got stuck into him and then against Deccan Chargers, but has come back well to top the wickets for Rajasthan Royals. An economy-rate of 7.35 is not that bad. Praveen Kumar is Royal Challengers Bangalore's second highest wicket-taker. He's given away runs at 7.34 and showed his mental strength in the last over against Punjab when 12 were needed to win, taking two wickets. It will make for an interesting exclusion if RP does find his way back.
The only other close call for this squad is that India took 16 players to New Zealand, and here must name 15. The two most disposable members of those 16 are Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja. Karthik, though, has made a strong case for himself with 127 runs at an average of 25.41 and a strike-rate of 140 in the IPL's second season.
Nayar has been sent up the order twice, to No's 4 and 5, without much success but what really stood out was his 14-ball 35 against Chennai Super Kings, from his more regular No. 6 spot, that turned the inaugural game of the season Mumbai's way. Jadeja has done nothing to lose his place, and the verdict here is more likely to go with the incumbent. The choice between the three might come down to their part-time skill: do the selectors want their 15th man to be a part-time wicketkeeper, a part-time medium-pacer, or a part-time spinner? Karthik's assured batting in the IPL, and his being a wicket keeper, might just be the clincher for him.
Piyush Chawla, out of the Indian scheme of things for quite a while now, has done his best in the IPL, but his charge has been thwarted by Pragyan Ojha, who has done even better. The experience of Harbhajan Singh, and also the good form he has run into, cannot simply be dispensed.
None of Ajit Agarkar, Robin Uthappa, Joginder Sharma, Sreeesanth or Chawla is likely to be there to defend the trophy they won two years ago. But vis-à-vis India's last international Twenty20 squad, expect 13 to be there.
Squad: (probable) MS Dhoni (capt/wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Dinesh Karthik/Ravindra Jadeja/Abhishek Nayar, and three out of Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, Praveen Kumar and RP Singh.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo