The Indian team will start their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 campaign with the match against Pakistan on Sunday, 23 October. Having lost two of their last three T20I matches against three green shirts, India would need to execute their plans to perfection during the game, but even before the first delivery of the match is bowled, they will need to be flawless in another contest – selecting the best XI for the big occasion.
In this article, we will look at India’s predicted playing XI against Pakistan:
1. Openers – Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul
India’s opening pair selects itself, for it comprises the skipper, Rohit Sharma, and his deputy, KL Rahul. The same opening pair struggled to dominate proceedings only a year ago, but expectations will be high from the Rohit-Rahul duo this time around, owing to their recent performances.
The Indian batting unit made a strategic tweak in approach following the Super 12 exit from last year’s T20 World Cup, and the leader of the flock, Rohit Sharma has also led this particular revolution.
His average might have taken a dip, but at a time when T20I averages are losing their significance, his 2022 T20I strike rate of 142.5 certainly looks optimistic.
Owing to an injury, KL Rahul did not play any T20I cricket for the first seven months of 2022, and when he eventually made his comeback at the Asia Cup 2022, the batter from Karnataka did not look too convincing.
However, he has changed the narrative with praiseworthy efficacy over the last month, courtesy of his performances in the home T20I series against Australia and South Africa. In his five innings during the two series, Rahul struck three half-centuries.
2. Top Order – Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav
Like the openers, India’s number three and number four positions are also set in stone – belonging to Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav respectively. However, the two batters have had different graphs this year.
In his much-talked-about poor run of form, Virat Kohli struggled to score runs in all three departments. In his first five T20I matches of 2022, the former Indian skipper could only score one half-century, while also recording three scores under 20.
However, things took a turn for the better ever since he met Afghanistan in the Asia Cup 2022. The 33-year-old scored 122 runs in that fixture, and he then followed it up with a 63-run knock against Australia and an unbeaten 49-run knock against South Africa.
For Suryakumar Yadav, the ride has not been as bumpy, as he has been in spectacular form ever since he made his international debut. The Mumbai-born batter is not only consistent, having scored three half-centuries in his last four T20Is, but he also boasts of a commendable strike rate.
3. Middle Order – Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik
The second coming of Hardik Pandya has been a boon for the Indian cricket team. One can thank the Indian Premier League for playing its part in the all-rounder’s redemption arc, for ever since he won that tournament with Gujarat Titans, Pandya has looked like a different cricketer.
This year, the 29-year-old has scored 436 T20I runs at an average of 36.3, and more importantly, at a strike rate north of 150. The men in blue missed his bowling dearly in the last T20 World Cup, but that is unlikely to be a case once again as Pandya has scalped 12 T20I wickets in 2022, while also ensuring his economy rate does not cross the 9-run per over mark.
As for the wicketkeeping position, Dinesh Karthik is expected to pip Rishabh Pant. The veteran, who happened to be a part of the Indian team in the inaugural edition of the competition as well, has scored 273 runs in this format in 2022, at an average of 24.8 and a strike rate of 150.8.
Karthik’s average in his last 20 T20I matches is 20.1, which undoubtedly raises eyebrows, given that it is lower than Pant’s average of 27.5 from a similar span. However, the former’s strike rate of 147.2 is better than the latter’s, and given the position he will be batting, India would want quickfire cameos more than anchor knocks.
4. Spinners – Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin
Being the direct replacement of Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel’s place in the Indian playing XI looks unassailable, and after his recent performances, it should certainly be that way. In the nine T20I matches he has played since August, the 28-year-old has picked up 15 wickets at an average of only 15.5.
The dilemma, however, will be in selecting one player from Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravichandran Ashwin. While a team would usually prefer to have a leg-spinner in the playing XI, Chahal’s recent numbers are unimpressive, and so are his numbers in Australia.
Ashwin, on the contrary, has superior statistics Down Under, while being an off-spinner, he could be more effective against Pakistan’s left-handed trio of Fakhar Zaman, Khushdil Shah and Mohammad Nawaz.
5. Pacers – Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Shami
Among the three places reserved for the seamers, it will not be bold to predict two places being already filled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh.
The former might have struggled to contain runs at the death in recent months, but he remains India’s most lethal bowling asset with the new ball. The latter, on the flip side, is among India’s best death bowling options in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah.
If both Bhuvneshwar and Arshdeep are selected in the playing XI, it will leave Mohammed Shami and Harshal Patel in a head-to-head contest for the only other available slot.
Patel would have been the obvious choice till a couple of months ago, but his performance in the series against Australia and South Africa might have cost him a playing XI role. The 31-year-old has gone wicketless in four of his last six T20I matches, while also conceding over 40 runs in three of those fixtures.
Shami, on the other hand, might not have played any T20I match this year, but he did a fairly decent job for Gujarat Titans in the IPL – picking up 20 wickets at an average of 24.4 and an economy rate of eight runs per over. Moreover, the last over he bowled in the warm-up fixture against Australia, where he scalped three wickets by conceding only four runs, could have sealed his place.
India's Predicted Playing XI: Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik (wicketkeeper), Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh.