With the Indian T20 League delayed, what’s India's ideal T20 World Cup starting XI?
With the Indian T20 League postponed, India's hopes of identifying the last few places in their T20 World Cup squad has gone for a toss and they are now left with some tough decisions to make in the squad for the major event coming up in Australia later this year.
The Indian T20 League is unlikely to be staged before the T20 World Cup and India might have to rely on the players they have tried in the past or bank on some T20 domestic players who have shone.
We take a look at how India might line up for the World Cup.
Top-order: Sharma, Rahul, Kohli
While Shikhar Dhawan has been in decent touch in T20Is, KL Rahul was one of the best T20 openers in the format last year. Rohit Sharma's place at the top is unquestionable and there's little room for anyone in the top order other than Sharma, Rahul and Virat Kohli.
Kohli has an average of 42.7 in T20Is since the last T20 World Cup, and his place as captain and player is under no doubt. Should India need more power in the middle-order, the only option is to move Rahul to no. 3 and open with Kohli. It’s a move that was mighty successful at Bangalore during the 2016 season of the Indian T20 League.
Middle-order: Iyer, Pant, Pandya, Jadeja
Notice the one big missing name in the squad: MS Dhoni. The former skipper was expected to make a comeback to the national side following a long hiatus but the global virus lockdown has caught him unawares, taking his plan of getting back to the fold through the Indian T20 League and dashing it against a rock. In Dhoni's absence, Rishabh Pant is a certainty in the starting XI, although it is to be pointed out that Pant has to be in the XI even if Dhoni does manage to squeeze in.
Shreyas Iyer is more of an anchor and not everyone's cup of tea in the format in a middle-order role. However, he is a brutal spin bowler and since 2019, has 32 sixes across limited-overs matches for India. He will add a bit of flair and stability to the middle order that also has Pant and Hardik Pandya, who has enough time to recover from his injury.
Ravindra Jadeja adds a touch of aggression and covers up for one of the spinners in the format. The Chennai all-rounder will come in behind Pandya at no. 7 and will give the skipper an additional bowling option alongside Pandya.
Bowling: Bumrah, Chahal, Shami, Gopal, Saini (extra)
Given the surfaces in Australia, India might want to go in with an additional pace bowler in Navdeep Saini aside from the usual duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami. However, spin to win in T20s is a good success mantra, as the Guyana Amazon Warriors in the Caribbean Premier League, Chennai in Indian T20 League and the India women T20I side have shown. As such, an additional spin option in Shreyas Gopal, who is also a fine batsman, is highly desirable.
Although Kuldeep Yadav remains an option, Gopal, despite bowling about on par with Yuzvendra Chahal, brings more wicket-taking skills and economy to the table. Across T20 cricket in the last few years, Gopal is one of the most impressive spinners and it is high time India reward him with a place.
Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami bring contrasting things to the table. Bumrah's death bowling and Shami's ability to hit the deck and generate movement make the duo a good one to have in the format. Although, Shami will find himself pushed by Saini if India do play Chahal, Gopal and Jadeja together.
Final XI: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (c), Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shreyas Gopal, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal. 12th man: Navdeep Saini
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Indranil Mukherjee