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Should India pick Hardik, Ishan for Pakistan game?

By HARISH KOTIAN
October 21, 2021 08:53 IST
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Hardik Pandya

IMAGE: It remains to be seen if India go in with Hardik Pandya as a specialist batter if he is unable to bowl in the World Cup T20 match against Pakistan on Sunday, October 24. Photograph: BCCI
 

India take on Pakistan in their opening game at the ICC T20 World Cup in Dubai on Snday, October 24, 2021.

For the players of the two teams, it is one match they don't ever want; it is like playing for their lives considering the extreme reactions from the fans after a defeat.

India have a proud record to defend when they take on Pakistan in the sixth meeting between the two teams at T20 World Cups.

The 2007 champions India won all their five previous games against Pakistan at the T20 World Cup.

India will take confidence from the fact that all their players are in the groove, having just featured in the second leg of IPL 2021 in the UAE, where the T20 World Cup is also being held.

K L Rahul, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan, Jasprit Bumrah, Varun Chakravarthy and Mohammed Shami have inspired a lot of confidence with their IPL showing heading into the game against Pakistan.

Kishan and Rahul made a statement as they stroked quickfire half-centuries as openers in the T20 World Cup warm-up match against England on Monday, while Shami and Bumrah excelled with the ball.

Captain Kohli has already stated that there is no looking beyond Rohit Sharma and Rahul as the openers in the World Cup with him batting at No 3, even though he himself prefers to open in T20 cricket.

Rohit and Rahul face a stiff challenge against Pakistan's pace ace Shaheen Shah Afridi. Rohit, especially struggles early on against the incoming deliveries from left-arm pacers and it is this weakness that Afridi might look to exploit on Sunday.

Rahul is coming off a sensational season with the bat in IPL, while Rohit is one of the most dangerous batsmen in world cricket.

If Pakistan don't strike early with the new ball, the fans at the Dubai International stadium will be in for a special batting treat.

Afridi has been amongst the wickets in Pakistan's National T20 tournament and he will be the one to watch out for with the new ball for the Indians.

Not many will forget how Pakistan's left-armer Mohammed Amir sent the Indian top order reeling with a three-wicket burst in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final to lift his team to a huge 180 run win.

Another likely big match up could be between Kohli and Pakistan's leg-spinner Shadab Khan. Kohli has struggled against leg-spinners, struggling to pick the googly, and Shadab, with his variety and guile, could be a tricky challenge for the skipper.

Medium pacer Hasan Ali is another consistent performer with the ball for Pakistan. Ali, who is good with yorkers and slower balls, could be assigned the crucial task of bowling in the death overs.

Bowling to the likes of Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya at the end, he will be hoping for a few miracles than just rely on his skills.

In the bowling area, India's hopes rely majorly on strike bowler Boom Boom Bumrah. The fast bowler will be keen to make up for his lacklustre showing in the 2017 Champions Trophy final, when he went wicketless in nine overs.

He had Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman caught behind but overstepped which proved to be a decisive moment as the left-hander made most of the reprieve, smashing 114 from 106 balls.

Bumrah will target a few early wickets, including opener Mohammed Rizwan, who was one of Pakistan's most prolific scorers in T20 Internationals in 2021.

Pakistan Captain Babar Azam, ranked second in the T20 International rankings, holds the key to his team's batting hopes in the match against India. Babar averages nearly 47 in T20 Internationals with 2,204 runs in 16 games and he is the one batsmen India will be looking to dismiss early.

Shami is in great form, having picked up 11 wickets in six IPL games in the UAE and three wickets in the practice match against England on Monday. His ability to get the new white ball to move makes him a dangerous prospect and he will most certainly be targeting the big wickets of Azam and Zaman.

Pakistan have opted for experience in the middle order including the veteran duo of Mohammed Hafeez and Shoaib Malik. The two players, who have combined played more than 750 T20 matches and were part of Pakistan's team in the 2017 Champions Trophy final, know what it takes to beat India.

They will face a tough challenge against the Indian spinners, especially Varun Chakravarthy, who excelled with the ball for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL.

Chakravarthy is a handful with the ball even on flat wickets with his variations and he along with Ravindra Jadeja would look to stifle the Pakistan batsmen in the middle overs.

It remains to be seen if India go in with Hardik Pandya as a specialist batter if he is unable to bowl, considering his ability to take on the bowlers in the death overs despite the fact that it leaves them short in the bowling department.

Hardik didn't evoke much confidence with the bat in this year's IPL, scoring 127 runs in 12 games at a strike rate of 113.

Ravindra Jadeja and Shardul Thakur are both capable with the bat, but will India risk going into a big match with just five specialist bowlers if Pandya is unable to bowl?

Bhuvneshwar Kumar could also come into the picture if he is preferred as the third seamer ahead of Thakur who can also bat.

Ishan Kishan's recent smashing performances with the bat might see him break into the playing XI ahead of Suryakumar Yadav, but he is likely to bat in the middle order and could be used to unsettle Pakistan's spinners.

Who do you think should be part of India's playing XI for the T20 World Cup game against Pakistan?

Should India include Hardik Pandya? Should Ishan Kishan play ahead of Suryakumar Yadav?

Pick your India XI by clicking on the boxes below:

My India XI: Rohit Sharma, K L Rahul, Virat Kohli, Ishan Kishan, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Varun Chakravarthy.

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HARISH KOTIAN / Rediff.com

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