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India v Australia 2022/23

Five issues India will look to solve during the T20I series against Australia

Sarah Waris by Sarah Waris
@swaris16 6 minute read

India take on Australia in a three-match T20I series from September 20 — here are the issues they will hope to resolve ahead of the T20 World Cup next month Down Under.

Can KL Rahul find back his lost rhythm?

Rohit Sharma recently stated that Virat Kohli is a “definite option” to open for India. The onus is now on KL Rahul to make the most of his chances in the series against the world champions. The Indian vice-captain, one of the most skilled batters in the game, has a T20I strike rate nearing 141, but his returns since 2021 have been well below-par.

Rahul has scored runs at an average of 28.07 in 16 matches in this period, but a strike rate of 128 is a far cry from the aggressive approach the team have tried to adopt in recent months. In the 2022 Asia Cup, he started off with a duck, and an agonising 36 off 39 against Hong Kong sparked further debates over his spot in the XI. Though he did score a 41-ball 62 against Afghanistan, Kohli’s hundred opening the innings in the same game indicates that the options are not limited for India going forward.


It is well known that Kohli struggles against spin – he has a strike rate of 114 against all kinds of spinners for India since 2020. His strike rate against pacers, on the other hand, is 158. Pushing Kohli up the order in the powerplay, when the quicks are on, instead of having him at No.3 and having him walk out when spinners are in operation in the middle overs might not be the worst move.

With Rohit now suggesting that Kohli can possibly move up the order, the pressure is firmly on Rahul ahead of the T20 World Cup.

Can the middle order take control after early collapses?

For the longest time, the Indian side have been top-heavy – but now they have a solid middle-order in Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik. Even then, if the defeats in the Asia Cup are any indication, the middle-order still has a long way to go before they can regularly rescue India.

Against Pakistan in the Super Four, the openers piled on 54-1 in 5.1 overs but the middle-order failed to capitalise, despite a fighting 60 from Kohli. India lost regular wickets with batters from Nos 4 to 7 making 43 in 38 balls. India eventually posted 181-7, about 20 fewer than what they would have wanted to, given their start.

Against Sri Lanka, the situation was different: they collapsed to 13-2, and despite Rohit making 72 in 41 balls, no one else could make more than 34. India ended up with 173-8 on the board.

Is it Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik?

Pant made way for Dinesh Karthik in the XI against Pakistan in India’s opener in the Asia Cup, but Ravindra Jadeja’s injury meant that Pant – the lone left-hander – returned to the side. For all his eccentricities in Test cricket, Pant has not been able to set the T20I stage on fire; and unlike Karthik, he cannot tee off right away.

He is a crucial match-up against slow left-armers in Twenty20 cricket, but India already have a number of players who take time to settle in. If India play both Pant and Karthik, they will just have five bowlers, including Hardik – a risk they are likely to avoid. Realistically, only one will make the team, but India need to figure out who edges ahead.

Who will make up the spin bowling attack?

Jadeja’s injury has hampered India’s balance. Axar Patel, his like-for-like replacement, has had his moments with the bat, but having him at No.7 will reduce India’s batting depth. However, he is a much better batter than the other bowlers who can bat in the squad – Harshal Patel, R Ashwin and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Therefore, he has to feature, with Yuzvendra Chahal also in the side.

However, India might also be tempted to bring in Ashwin, especially in the World Cup, if the opposition has a few left-handers in the XI. With three spinners unlikely to feature in Australia, will they drop Axar for Ashwin and reduce their batting depth, or not play Chahal, their No.1 spinner?

At least two venues for the upcoming T20Is against Australia – Nagpur and Hyderabad – traditionally assist spin. However, in Australia, picking two of the three may be a headache.

Is the pace attack settled?

There are five pacers in the side, including two who are not in the T20 World Cup squad (Umesh Yadav and Deepak Chahar). Arshdeep Singh, who will board the flight to Australia, has been rested. There is no doubt that Arshdeep should have been selected to help India zero in on their first-choice attack for the T20 World Cup.

The aim, against Australia, should be to try out bowlers who feature in the squad for the mega-event. Bhuvneshwar, Harshal and Jasprit Bumrah will all thus be part of the XI. Chahar can also be given a go, considering he is picked as a standby for the T20 World Cup.

However, with Arshdeep missing, India may not be able to figure out their best attack right away. He has been impressive and adds variety with his left-arm angle, while Harshal has grabbed eyeballs with his run in the IPL and is a decent batter to boot. The two should ideally have been given a go together after Harshal missed the Asia Cup due to injury. That way, the more impressive of the two would have made the cut for the first few games of the World Cup.

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