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T20 World Cup 2021

Picking India’s XI for their T20 World Cup opener against Pakistan

by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

Four Wisden writers pick the India XI for the T20 World Cup 2021 clash against Pakistan on October 24.

India begin their T20 World Cup campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on Sunday, as they look for their second title in the event. The Men in Blue have a number of selection headaches ahead of them, starting from the opening combination to the choice between Hardik Pandya or Shardul Thakur in the XI. With a number of spinners available as well, India have plenty to ponder, and we ask four Wisden writers about their first-choice XI for the match.

Ben Gardner, Wisden.com managing editor

KL Rahul
Rohit Sharma
Virat Kohli
Suryakumar Yadav
Ishan Kishan
Rishabh Pant
Ravindra Jadeja
Rahul Chahar
Varun Chakravarthy
Jasprit Bumrah
Mohammed Shami

Much of this is nailed down. The Virat-Rohit axis at the top was momentarily appealing eight months ago, but an unleashed KL Rahul is India’s best hope of taking advantage of the all-important powerplay. Many of the batters are a spot too low, but that’s only evidence of their class. The big call is Ishan Kishan, who smashed it in the warm-ups, over Hardik Pandya, a fearsome ball-striker but out of nick and struggling to recover from injury. If the latter can bowl, he plays. If not, he sits in a cryotherapy chamber off-field to prepare himself to emerge in a cloud of mist for the latter stages.

On the bowlers, I’ve gone three spinners, largely because of worries about Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s form, but also because of how good those twirlers are. Ravindra Jadeja might be, pound-for-pound, the best cricketer in the world right now, Varun Chakravarthy has the mystery to tear up a global tournament, and Rahul Chahar’s quick leg-spin is mightily effective.

Rohit Sankar, Wisden India staff writer

Ishan Kishan
KL Rahul
Virat Kohli
Suryakumar Yadav
Rishabh Pant
Hardik Pandya
Ravindra Jadeja
Shardul Thakur
Mohammed Shami
Varun Chakravarthy
Jasprit Bumrah

Ishan Kishan’s form is too good to not consider him at the top of the order, where he is most impactful. KL Rahul is India’s most complete T20 player, so there’s no looking past him. All this leaves Virat Kohli in a one-on-one battle with Rohit Sharma for a place in the starting XI (in an ideal world of course). With Kohli the more versatile of the two T20 batters, I’ll stick with him. The only way India should play both Rohit and Kohli is if Rahul can go down the order and play the Hardik role with Kishan opening alongside Rohit.

The middle-order picks itself as does Ravindra Jadeja. Varun Chakravarthy is the only other spinner in my side although they might want to look at another spinner as the tournament progresses. Shardul pips Bhuvneshwar on recent form and his performances in UAE in the IPL.

Sarah Waris, Wisden India staff writer

Ishan Kishan
Rohit Sharma
Virat Kohli
Suryakumar Yadav
KL Rahul
Rishabh Pant
Ravindra Jadeja
Shardul Thakur
Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Jasprit Bumrah
Varun Chakravarthy

The big change that I have made is Ishan Kishan at the top of the order alongside Rohit Sharma. Kishan is a terrific young talent, who has shown his ability to tee off from ball one whenever he has been asked to open. With India often struggling for momentum in the powerplay overs, Kishan’s presence will be a big boost. KL Rahul thus bats down the order, where he has done decently in his limited chances. His batting at five also improves the batting depth of the team, which allows them to play Shardul Thakur over out-of-form Hardik Pandya.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar is not in the best form but is vastly experienced, and I back him to be a game-changer in the T20 World Cup. Varun Chakravarthy pips Rahul Chahar due to the latter’s indifferent form in the IPL.

Divy Tripathi, Wisden India staff writer

KL Rahul
Rohit Sharma
Virat Kohli (c)
Ishan Kishan
Rishabh Pant (wk)
Suryakumar Yadav
Ravindra Jadeja
Ravichandran Ashwin
Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Mohammad Shami
Jasprit Bumrah

It’s a bit tough on Ishan Kishan, who has shown great form of late as an opener, but Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul will be the safest bet at the top for me, given their experience at the international level.

All the same, Kishan is a must-pick. I would pick him as a number 4. He will be joined in by Rishabh Pant and Suryakumar Yadav.

Hardik Pandya doesn’t make the team because of his average batting form, and the fact that he hasn’t bowled of late. Jadeja at seven and Ashwin at eight ensure that India tail can contribute if needed. Despite being off-colour of late, India should stick with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, given that he can be lethal with the new ball, and has an economy rate of 5.62 in powerplay overs in T20Is.

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