Two-time defending champions Mumbai Indians failing to qualify for the IPL 2021 playoffs has been a huge surprise. Through Rohit Sharma and Co. won their last couple of games in style, Kolkata Knight Riders pipped Mumbai to the fourth and final playoff spot on net run rate. Though Mumbai have crashed out, it could well be a blessing in disguise for Team India ahead of the T20 World Cup which begins in the UAE and Oman on October 17.
The Indian squad for the mega event consists of six Mumbai players – Rohit, pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, all-rounder Hardik Pandya, leg-spinner Rahul Chahar and top order batters Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav. Among these opener Rohit and Bumrah are two of India's standout performers in white-ball cricket. The two have been playing almost non-stop cricket starting with the Test series in England in August. Bumrah starred with the ball in India's wins in the Lord's and Oval Tests, while Rohit struck his first overseas Test ton to set up the triumph in the fourth Test at The Oval.
Rohit picked up an injury in the Oval Test and missed Mumbai's first game against Chennai Super Kings in the UAE leg of the IPL. Though he was back at the helm for the rest of the matches, the additional break could well suit Rohit. Bumrah is priceless for India both with the new ball and at the death. Mumbai not making the playoffs means he will get a few extra days to recharge his batteries ahead of the crunch games in the World T20.
The final 15 announced by India consists of just four pacers in Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar plus Hardik Pandya who played as a specialist batsman in the IPL due to fitness issues. Interestingly all three fit seamers - Bumrah, Shami and Bhuvi - will take no further part in the ongoing IPL as Shami's Punjab Kings and Bhuvi's Sunrisers Hyderabad too have been eliminated.
Tomorrow (Sunday) is the last date to make changes to the World Cup squad. There is a big question mark over Pandya's fitness and he's likely to make way for CSK all-rounder Shardul Thakur. It is interesting to note that Rahul Chahar, who was preferred over the experienced Yuzvendra Chahal, did not feature in Mumbai's last three games. On the other hand, Chahal has been in superb form for Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The IPL ends on Friday (October 15), while India open their World Cup campaign against Pakistan in Dubai on October 24. Strong challengers New Zealand and Afghanistan plus two qualifiers complete India's group in the Super 12. The top two teams progress to the semifinals.
Dubai have been more or less a home ground for Pakistan of late, while India last beat New Zealand in an ICC event in the 2003 ODI World Cup. In short, Virat Kohli and his men have to be in top form from the beginning to avoid any slip up.