The double-headers of Indian Premier League on Sunday this week took place amid clouds of Indian World Cup squad selection looming in. While some spots for the squad appear to be fixed, there are certain places that still have a few players in contention. The BCCI will be announcing the squad on Monday, and for some of the potential candidates, it was a final chance to impress the selectors.
Here is how some of the contenders fared on the eve of World Cup squad selection:
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (SRH)
With the return of Kane Williamson into the side, Sunrisers Hyderabad relieved Bhuvneshwar Kumar from the captaincy duties. The fast bowler started the attack for SRH and gave just seven runs in the first over. The pacer was disciplined throughout the match and did not allow DC batsmen to take the game away. He also picked up the crucial wicket of DC skipper Shreyas Iyer, who was batting on 45 in 40 balls and was starting to accelerate. Kumar finished with figures of 2/33 in his four overs as SRH restricted DC to 155/7 in 20 overs.
Rishabh Pant (DC)
Batting alongside skipper Iyer, the stage was set for Rishabh Pant to showcase why he should be picked as MS Dhoni’s understudy. Throughout the tournament, Pant has been impressive and has already put his name in the hat for selection. But he failed to grasp on one final opportunity, as he could just score 23 in 19 balls before he was dismissed in Khaleel Ahmed’s over. It was a low full toss and the batsman could not get under it, but still hit it in the air. Pant failed to get any power in the shot and he was caught at long-on by Deepak Hooda. The wicketkeeper-batsman has a habit of playing one shot too many, which is why some cricket pundits have questioned whether he has the temperament and experience to be in the World Cup squad. The criticism could probably see him being ignored by the selectors.
Dinesh Karthik (KKR)
Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Dinesh Karthik was the second wicketkeeper, who was in the race for squad selection as Dhoni’s understudy at World Cup. He had an unimpressive IPL tournament before Sunday, averaging just 15.33 after first seven games. The wicketkeeper-batsman came on in the 11th over and had plenty of time to settle down and get runs on the board against CSK. Imran Tahir dismissed the heavy hitters Chris Lynn and Andre Russell, and the onus was on DK to go for big hits. But Karthik failed to make most of the opportunity, scoring just 18 runs in 14 balls. He was dismissed by Shardul Thakur as he sliced a knuckleball from the seamer to long-off. He did not get under the length, which meant he got more elevation than the distance. The ever-reliable Faf du Plessis took a simple catch.
Ambati Rayudu (CSK)
If India had hoped that the ongoing IPL tournament would provide some clarity on who should be picked for the no. 4 position, it has not worked out that way. One of the primary contenders for the position, Ambati Rayudu would have hoped he could instill confidence among selectors with a sensational performance a day before the World Cup squad announcement. But the Tamil Nadu batsman was dismissed in Piyush Chawla’s first ball, as he tried to drive a delivery outside off for a boundary. He failed to keep it grounded, and handed a straight catch to Robin Uthappa at cover.
Khaleel Ahmed (SRH)
Even though a BCCI source has made it clear to Indian Express that India would be travelling with regular seamers, Khaleel Ahmed, in an interview to Times of India, said he still feels he has a chance. The source also told Express that there will be three back-up bowlers travelling with the squad, in case of an injury, which might pave an outside chance for Ahmed as well. Recalled into the side, Ahmed impressed with the ball, recording figures of 3/30 in his 4 overs. The left-armer dismissed DC’s in-form opening pair, Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan. He then also took the big wicket of Pant. Can he replace Bhuvneshwar in the selector’s minds with this performance? Only time will tell.