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T20 World Cup 2021

Five dilemmas facing India after their Pakistan annihilation

by Sarah Waris 5 minute read

India, one of the favourites for the T20 World Cup 2021, started their title pursuit badly as they succumbed to a 10-wicket loss against Pakistan on Sunday.

The Virat Kohli-led team have a number of issues, including dilemmas over their team balance and the form of some players, to resolve before they take on New Zealand in their next encounter on Sunday

Can India fit in Ishan Kishan to break up all the right-handers?

Against Pakistan, the only left-hander in the Indian top-six was Rishabh Pant, with Ravindra Jadeja batting at number seven. The presence of Ishan Kishan in the XI would not only give them more variation in the top-order but will also ensure greater intent.

Kishan, who recently smashed a 32-ball 80 against Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL, is known for his aggressive batting in the powerplay overs, which is in contrast to the more sedate approach that KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma have adopted recently. Rohit, in particular, has a strike rate of only 121.56 in the first six overs of a T20I innings this year, which puts additional pressure on the batter at the other end.

With Virat Kohli stating recently that Kishan has been selected in the side as an opener, drafting him in alongside experienced Rohit in the XI, with Rahul batting in the middle order, might not be the worst move.

Is it time to break up the Rohit-Rahul axis?

With Shikhar Dhawan no longer in the fray for a T20I selection, the Indian management has zeroed in on Rahul as the opener alongside Rohit. However, the two have very similar approaches up front — both look to anchor the innings and stay at the crease for the majority of an innings instead of teeing off from ball one. Virat Kohli’s batting also follows a similar template, which often leaves India with a lot of catching up to do in the death overs.

The addition of Kishan at the top with Rahul moving down the order could be a tactic worth exploring. Rahul, one of the best T20I batters in the world, has an average of 87 while batting at number four in the format – albeit from a reasonably small sample size – and his presence in the middle would also lend a greater balance to the line-up that does not inspire much confidence following Hardik Pandya’s recent form.

Is Hardik Pandya worth his spot as a specialist finisher?

Hardik Pandya’s growing injury concerns and his inability to bowl match-after-match has cast a doubt over his place in the side as he continues to play as a specialist batter.

The Mumbai Indians player has a T20I batting average of just 19.03, but with a strike rate of 145.16, he was a must-have when available. However, his numbers have dropped drastically this year. Across all T20 matches, Hardik has a strike rate of 121.24 in 2021 at an average of 16.71, with a high score of 40*.

The inability to bowl has further put scrutiny on the numbers — if he cannot bowl his four overs, not only is the team forced to change their combination to add a sixth bowling option, but they also have to figure out if the inconsistent batting returns, which was acceptable earlier due to his bowling contributions, is worth the risk especially with a player like Kishan in the ranks.

What role can Shardul Thakur’s strange bag of tricks play?

Shardul Thakur remains an extremely street-smart bowler, and is the first choice to replace Hardik in the XI, but does his inclusion weaken the batting department? Thakur has only scored 183 runs in 122 T20s, at an average of 9.15 and a strike rate of 115.09. A game-changer with the bat in Tests for India with crucial innings against Australia and England hides the fact that Thakur has been well below-par with the willow in the shortest format of the game. His selection in India’s XI would drastically reduce the batting depth, with Ravindra Jadeja being pushed to six, and though India will have an extra bowling option, will they risk running a batter short?

Is the bowling attack balance right?

With a spin-heavy squad, it was assumed that India would back their strengths and pick at least three slower bowlers in the XI. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has not been in the best form of late, picking up just six wickets in 11 IPL games this year at an average of 55.83 and an economy rate of nearing eight, gave away runs at 8.33 an over against Pakistan, which further puts a question mark on his spot. Varun Chakravarthy was impressive in the first two overs of his spell but ended up leaking runs in the middle overs as his inexperience came to the fore.

Should India go back to their spin veteran Ravichandran Ashwin to man the middle overs along with Jadeja and Chakravarthy? Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah could then get support from Shardul Thakur, or should they persist with experienced Kumar to come good as he has in the past?

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