Team India don’t have much time to go for the T20 World Cup, which will commence next month in Australia. The Men in Blue, who were eliminated from the 2022 Asia Cup at the Super 4 stage, still have several kinks to iron out before they can be considered the outright favorites for the marquee ICC event.
Losses to Pakistan and Sri Lanka sounded the death knell for India, who were without Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel for the tournament. To rub salt into their wounds, Ravindra Jadeja suffered a freak injury to be ruled out of the Asia Cup and will probably miss the T20 World Cup as well. With respect to both their squad selection and their playing XI, Rohit Sharma and the team management need to think long and hard.
Here are three questions India are no closer to answering ahead of the T20 World Cup.
#3 What does India’s ideal lower order look like?
England v India – 3rd Vitality IT20
India’s aggressive batting approach needs depth. There’s no way around that. The team’s lower order, starting from No. 7 or No. 8, needs to have at least a couple of frontline bowlers capable of contributing with the bat. This was more than evident in the Asia Cup, where the side opted to go in a batter light and often felt the pinch.
India’s wrist-spinners don’t offer anything with the bat, and their finger-spinners are capable but not reliable. In the pace department, apart from Deepak Chahar and Harshal Patel, no one can really guarantee a few runs at a good clip. So can Rohit Sharma and Co. squeeze in either Chahar or Harshal at No. 8? With Arshdeep Singh and Bhuvneshwar Kumar performing well, that might be easier said than done.
Ravindra Jadeja’s expected absence will cause India further problems, with Axar Patel’s batting not really instilling much confidence. And Dinesh Karthik is eating up a specialist batting spot in the lower-middle order. Speaking of which…
#2 Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik? Or both?
India v Pakistan – DP World Asia Cup
Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik might play wholly different roles in India’s playing XI, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t come down to a straight shootout between the two wicket-keepers. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Suryakumar Yadav are practically indispensable, as is Hardik Pandya.
Will India back Pant’s left-handed dimension in the top five? Or will they go with Karthik as a specialist finisher? Hardik’s role has morphed from finisher to regular middle-order batter, and in the absence of Jadeja, the Men in Blue might need Karthik’s experience down the order. Pant, on the other hand, adds something new to the side even if his recent returns haven’t been great.
India couldn’t use the Asia Cup to answer these questions. While Pant didn’t impress in his three innings, Karthik got only one ball to face.
#1 How do India fit Rohit, Rahul and Kohli?
England v India – 3rd Royal London Series One Day International
Kohli’s century against Afghanistan further illustrated that he’s best suited to opening the batting in T20 cricket, and there’s no doubt that Rohit’s best position is at the top of the order as well.
Can India afford to open with their experienced duo and push Rahul into a middle-order role? Could they even drop Rahul from the playing XI altogether? If India opt to open with Rohit and Kohli, where will Rahul play, considering Suryakumar has to be in the top four?
India have already experienced the drawbacks of having Rohit, Rahul and Kohli in that order in the top three. Unfortunately, though, there doesn’t appear to be any clear-cut solution right now.