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2021 T20 World Cup: Shardul Over Hardik? What India’s Playing XI Could Look Like

India open their campaign in the 2021 T20 World Cup on 24 October against Pakistan.

Updated
Cricket
4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Will Shardul Thakur replace Hardik Pandya in the playing XI&nbsp;</p></div>
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The Indian men’s squad for the 2021 T20 World Cup was one that was heavily discussed, dissected and pondered upon by former players and fans alike, as is the case ahead of any big tournament or tour.

Shardul Thakur was a late addition to the squad which also has MS Dhoni as mentor while this is also the last time Virat Kohli will lead the Indian T20 side, all of which makes the plot more interesting. As does the thought that Hardik Pandya, considered to be one of the most important players in the squad, may not bowl at all.

While Aakash Chopra has raised doubts about Hardik’s place in the playing XI some have questioned the absence of Yuzvendra Chahal in the squad.

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Does Ishan Kishan Get the Nod Over Suryakumar?

India will want to be absolutely correct with their combinations right from the word go. The majority of the frontline batters pick themselves, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant are four of the first names that will be penciled in on the sheet.

There is likely to be a toss up between Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav for the fifth batters spot. As Kishan is a left handed batter, the left and right combination can play a big role in selection, and picking him would allow the team to have three left handers who are well and truly capable with the bat, Ravindra Jadeja being the third.

Kishan can also bat anywhere in the line-up and also take on the big gloves if needed, giving more flexibility to the team. Suryakumar on the other hand, a fantastic cricketer in his own right, might not be as flexible a candidate in the XI.

Both have shown that they can do plenty of damage to the opposition and leaving one out will be a difficult call that the management will need to make.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Virat Kohli and Ishan Kishan speaking after the game on Sunday.&nbsp;</p></div>

Virat Kohli and Ishan Kishan speaking after the game on Sunday. 

Image: BCCI

Does Shardul Replace Hardik?

The fitness concerns of Hardik Pandya has really troubled India and if he does not bowl at the T20 World Cup, does he merit a place in the XI on his batting. Going by current form, it is difficult to see him hold down his spot as a batter only.

In IPL 2021, Hardik played 12 games and batted in 11 innings scoring all of 127 runs at an average of 14.11 with a highest score of 40 not out.

Unless Hardik can suddenly turn things around in the warm-up games against England on 18 October in Dubai and then Australia on 20 October in Abu Dhabi, the likelihood is that he will be benched.

If Hardik is indeed benched, then India will need a fast-bowling all-rounder and Shardul Thakur, who has been in fine form in the yellow of the Chennai Super Kings led by Dhoni in the UAE leg of the IPL. Shardul has been one of CSK’s top performers this season and indeed has turned up trump in almost all situations even in the India colours.

Till now, Thakur has been the highest-wicket taker for Chennai in the tournament, taking 18 wickets from 15 matches at an economy rate of 8.75. In the UAE leg of IPL 2021, Thakur has scalped 13 wickets in eight matches for Chennai.

Along with Shadul or Hardik, India are definitely going to slot in Ravindra Jadeja as the two all-rounders after the top 5.

Hardik Pandya said that he realised the importance of mental health after he started playing at the highest level.
Hardik Pandya said that he realised the importance of mental health after he started playing at the highest level.
Image: BCCI
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Two Spinners and Two Pacers?

On surfaces that aren’t likely to really aid the pacers too much, it is likely that India will turn to their able spinners, all of whom have been playing the IPL in UAE and will be used to the conditions.

Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami are India’s frontline pacers and it is difficult to see India playing all three together. Bumrah pretty much sure to play all the games and will be partnered by one of Bhuvneshwar or Shami.

That leaves space for 2 more bowlers and Kohli and co are likely to turn to R Ashwin and Varun Chakaravarthy, with even Rahul Chahar in the mix. While Ashwin is one of India’s best spinners, Chakaravarthy has shown time and again that he is extremely useful in T20 cricket and will have another chance to show off his skills in the IPL final.

Mind you, Rahul Chahar not being in good form also does not help the Indian team and they will hope he can turn things around soon.

Possible Playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Ishan Kishan/Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Shadul Thakur, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Varun Chakaravarthy.

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