Who makes India’s T20 World Cup side?

India’s T20 team looked in good form going into the Asia Cup in the UAE.

At the start of the tournament, the big question was on what the team would do with KL Rahul and Virat Kohli becoming available for the Asia Cup selection.

The team management did the predictable thing by bringing them back into the team and upset the role clarity players had started to enjoy during the successful phase. Neither did Rahul and Virat succeed, nor did the team manage to win.

Now, Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid must be tearing their hair apart, lining up their first-choice XI for the World Cup. The injury to Ravindra Jadeja has also hit them at the wrong time.

As I have maintained in all my analyses of the composition of a T20 team, the team must have nine batters and at least six bowlers. The current Indian team played with seven batters, which impacted their finish in both the Super 4 matches.

India could have won those games if they had finished better. T20 matches are won and lost on those thin margins. India did not play badly in this tournament, unlike the T20 World Cup in 2021.

Can India field a nine-batter combination without impacting their bowling?

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India’s shortage of seam bowling all-rounder options makes it difficult to assemble such a team for Australian conditions. Let me take a shot at such a combination.

The options for the top four are Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Surya Kumar Yadav, and Deepak Hooda. Considering the current form, I would play Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Virat Kohli and Surya Kumar Yadav with Deepak Hooda as the back-up.

Virat Kohli.

(Photo by Surjeet Yadav/Getty Images)

The middle order is players 5 to 9, and four of them must bowl. The all-rounder options for India are Hardik Pandya, Deepak Chahar, Axar Patel, Shardul Takur, Harshal Patel, Washington Sundar, Ravi Ashwin, and Rahul Tewatia. I would play Hardik Pandya, Deepak Chahar, Axar Patel and Harshal Patel, with Dinesh Karthik as the finisher at 6 or 7.

That leaves Jasprit Bumrah and Arshdeep Singh as the 10 and 11 for the match, with Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami as the back-up for these bowlers.

My first choice XI is Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Virat Kohli, Surya Kumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik, Harshal Patel, Deepak Chahar, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah and Arshdeep Singh.

The plan is to have Virat anchor the innings and let the others go after the bowling. Rohit seemed to be in excellent touch against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Rishabh Pant should either play in the top order or warm the benches. The team management has confused his role and has prevented his growth as a T20 batter. Rohit and Pant will open.

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Deepak Chahar will bowl out in the first 10 overs, and Harshal, Arshdeep and Bumrah to finish the innings.

Now that I have dreamed of my team, let me come to what will happen.

Considering the team’s fondness for Yuzuvendra Chahal, I expect him to be in Rahul and Rohit’s starting XI. They also seem to believe in the miracle of KL Rahul. So, he will also play in their XI. Apart from these choices, they will also play Bhuvaneshwar Kumar for his wicket-taking ability in the power play.

The most likely Indian starting XI will be Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Surya Kumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik, Axar Patel, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh, Yuzuvendra Chahal.

The most likely XI depends on the old-fashioned ODI template of the top three scoring the bulk of the runs with the middle order swinging for the fences during the slog overs.

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If they go for the most likely XI, there will be no buffer for failure with both bat and ball; the last four cannot bat, and five of the top six cannot bowl.

Rohit will hope for MS Dhoni’s luck in the 2011 World Cup, where his fifth bowler, Yuvraj, turned into gold. But for mere mortals, I will take my risks with deeper batting order and have a big score as my seventh bowler.

India does not have mystery spinners like Mujeeb or rampaging fast bowlers like Shaheen Shah Afridi who teams play out with caution.

Except for Jasprit Bumrah, opponents don’t seem to respect anyone in the Indian bowling set-up. So, I would much rather have some slack in my batting than weaken it by playing four 1970s-type pure bowlers.

Considering what will happen based on the established pattern of decision-making in the Indian team selection, I don’t fancy the team’s chances in the World Cup.

Additionally, India does not have a Virat Kohli of the mid-2010s who could win matches on his own. India’s lack of that X-factor is their biggest stumbling block. World Cups are won by talisman players, not workhorses.

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