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India v South Africa 2022

Five selection dilemmas for India ahead of the South Africa T20I series

Sarah Waris by Sarah Waris
@swaris16 4 minute read

India’s white-ball outfit will be back in action after the culmination of IPL 2022 when they take on South Africa in a five-match T20I series.

A number of senior players have been rested for the series that begins on June 9. The tour is a great opportunity for youngsters to show their mettle and emerge as strong contenders to make the 15-member squad for the T20 World Cup that will be held later this year. KL Rahul will lead the side that features comeback man Hardik Pandya, along with youngsters such as Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh.

India’s squad for the T20I series: KL Rahul (Captain), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (vice-captain)(wk), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Hardik Pandya, Venkatesh Iyer, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Ravi Bishnoi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh, Umran Malik


Who will open alongside KL Rahul?

Unlike in the IPL, where KL Rahul’s strike rate remains a talking point, his batting approach in T20Is is refreshing, with more aggression on offer. He strikes at over 140 while opening the innings for India, a spot he is expected to bat in against the Proteas.

The management, though, will face a dilemma over his batting partner: both Ruturaj Gaikwad and Ishan Kishan, the two other openers in the squad, did not have the best of IPL seasons and struggled to get going in the powerplay overs. Kishan, who ended the edition with an overall strike rate of 120.11, batted with a rate of 112.56 inside the first six overs, while Gaikwad fared slightly better, striking at 113.41 in this phase.

While there is no denying both youngsters have immense potential, their struggles against pace and movement in the IPL do remain a worry. With South Africa travelling to India with a formidable fast bowling line-up, Rahul will have to identify the best opener among the two. Kishan offers him a right-left combination, but Gaikwad is an aesthetic batter who can bat through the innings to a big score.

Who constitutes the middle order?

Hardik Pandya, the captain of the victorious Gujarat Titans, batted up the order for the franchise in the IPL, but he has primarily essayed the role of finisher for the international side. Shreyas Iyer, who batted at No.3 in his last four T20I innings, could continue at the spot, with Rishabh Pant to follow at No.4. Dinesh Karthik, who last played for India in 2019, makes a return to the side after a stellar IPL, where he made 330 runs at an average of 55 and a strike rate of 183.33.

Karthik stood out for his ability to consistently finish off games for his side Royal Challengers Bangalore and is likely a sure-starter as a specialist batter, but India’s dilemma revolves around his batting spot, with Hardik fighting for the same role. The two are expected to be slotted in at No.5 and No.6, but when they walk out could depend on the match situation as well.

Is there place for Venkatesh Iyer in the XI?

Venkatesh Iyer had a poor IPL this time, making 182 runs at a strike rate of 107.69 at the top of the order. He has, however, been picked for the series based on performances so far for India, and the impressive numbers he strung together in IPL 2021. In Hardik’s absence, Venkatesh was allocated the role of a finisher in the T20I setup, and he did not disappoint, scoring runs at a strike rate of 162.19. Four of his seven innings had a strike rate of over 180, but the return of Karthik and Hardik makes it tougher for him to retain his spot.

Venkatesh’s bowling leaves much to be desired – he has bowled only nine overs in nine T20Is, and cannot be seen as someone who could complete his quota every game. Including him in the side could add firepower to the batting, but if Hardik does not bowl his four overs every game in order to stay fit for the T20 World Cup, adding Venkatesh in the XI would leave them with an unreliable fifth bowler.

Who is the second spinner?

Yuzvendra Chahal won the Purple Cap in the recent IPL for picking up 27 wickets and is expected to make the XI, but the choice of the second spinner is not as straightforward. Kuldeep Yadav did get 21 scalps in the edition for Delhi Capitals, but tapered off towards the end, with just four wickets from six games. He was also expensive through the season, conceding more than eight runs an over in nine out of 14 innings.

The other spin options are Ravi Bishnoi and Axar Patel. The latter adds batting depth to the XI but did not have a great outing with the ball in the IPL, picking up only six wickets in 13 matches at an average of 53.50. However, he was relatively economical, conceding 7.47 runs an over. Bishnoi picked up 13 wickets but showed signs of faltering under pressure, and ended the season with an economy rate of 8.44.

What is India’s first-choice seam attack?

India’s fast bowling resources are overflowing, with a problem of plenty awaiting Rahul ahead of the series. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s revival in the IPL and his death bowling returns – he conceded only 8.79 runs in the last five overs – makes him certain to spearhead the new-ball attack with Harshal Patel, who now has 52 wickets in the last two seasons of the IPL.

The selection headache will be for the third quick’s spot: Umran Malik is fast and can be a threat in Australia where the T20 World Cup will be held this year, but he can be expensive on occasions. Left-armer Arshdeep Singh has displayed he can nail the yorkers consistently, and ended with an economy rate of 7.91 in the death this IPL but only got a total of 10 scalps, while Avesh Khan has a number of variations in his kitty and can bowl in any phase of the innings, but seems to have slipped down the pecking order.

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