Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) v West Indies in the USA: What Should Be India’s Playing XI?

MS Dhoni will have at least one tough selection decision to make when he sits down, along with Anil Kumble, to pick India’s playing XI for the two T20Is, which are to be played on consecutive days (August 27th and 28th, 2016), against the West Indies.

Before the Indian Test side led by Virat Kohli left for the West Indies on July 6th, 2016, to play in a four-Test series which concluded in a disappointing fashion on Monday, there were no talks of India and West Indies playing any limited overs fixtures in the Caribbean or elsewhere. However, following the conclusion of the Antigua Test, officials from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) met in Florida to discuss the possibility of holding two-three Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) after the conclusion of the four Tests between West Indies and India.

The availability of the Central Broward Regional Park, which is the solitary ICC certified ODI venue in the United States of America (USA), also had to be enquired about, for India and West Indies to play the games during the last week of August. Ostensibly, WICB enquired the recreation manager of this venue, about the availability for August 28th, a Sunday. The WICB also had to request permission from the ICC, for staging the T20Is between West Indies and India in the USA, where only once before have ICC’s two full-member nations played limited overs games before, with West Indies and New Zealand playing a couple of T20Is in the year 2012.

On the 2nd of August, BCCI confirmed that the two nations would indeed be playing a couple of T20Is against each other, and the Indian squad was announced on August 12th, 2016, three days after the world T20 champions West Indies named their T20I squad for the clashes against India.

With two T20Is to be played on two consecutive days, what will be India’s playing XI for the two T20Is against Carlos Brathwaite’s men? Continue reading.

India’s Playing XI (probable) for the T20Is v West Indies

Before we take a look at India’s probable playing XI for their twin T20Is against West Indies, let us recollect the Indian squad which has been picked: Dhoni (C & WK), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Lokesh Rahul, Stuart Binny, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, and Jasprit Bumrah.

There have been a few changes from the Indian squads which were picked for the ICC World Twenty20 (WT20) 2016 and the three T20Is against Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe, but this 14-man Indian squad named for the two T20Is versus the West Indies, is strong and versatile nonetheless. Kumble, lest we forget, will coach India’s T20I side for the first time since being appointed India’s coach, and will also meet and discuss tactics, team composition, etc. with the man he passed India’s Test captaincy to in 2008.

Looking ahead to this Saturday and Sunday’s T20Is, I think KL Rahul, who played in every one of India’s six limited-overs games (three ODIs and three T20Is) against Zimbabwe and had a good tour overall, might miss out on a place in India’s playing XI for at least the first T20I on Saturday (August 27th), despite having been in good form during the Tests versus the West Indies. The reason being the returns of S Dhawan and Rohit to India’s T20I side, after this duo were rested for India’s tour of Zimbabwe 2016. S Dhawan and Rohit are likely to be India’s openers, at least for the first T20I.

Kohli will move a place higher to No. 3, which is his position in India’s ODI and T20I sides, than where he batted (No. 4) in the Antigua and Jamaica Tests. Kohli’s selection for both the T20Is is almost certain.

Rahane’s place is almost certain too, given that he is a dynamic fielder and a safe catcher in addition to being a delightful batsman to watch when in full flow. He is likely to slot in at No. 4, a position ahead of where Dhoni will bat, unless the situation demands the Indian ODI and T20I skipper to promote himself and probably come in before Rahane. Dhoni, being a power-hitter and with his inherent ability to clear the boundary, will walk in ahead of Rahane if the top three lay a solid foundation or if the game situation is such that India are in need of momentum and not consolidation.

With all-rounders being an indispensable part of any T20 outfit, R Jadeja will probably be India’s No. 6 and the Saurashtra spinning all-rounder’s selection is a no-brainer anyway: the Gujarat Lions’ (GL) player is, like Rahane, a live wire on the field and can play the big shots at the death, and his four overs are rarely not valuable, especially with his lower trajectory and stump-to-stump bowling potentially strangulating the big-hitters in the West Indies side. West Indies’ 13-man squad for the two T20Is against India, has only three left-hand batsmen—Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis and Sunil Narine—meaning India need a spinner who takes the ball away from the right-handers who will follow one after another. And, R Jadeja could well be that spinner, even though Mishra, a leg-spinner, is also part of India’s 14-man squad.

Ashwin, arguably the best off-spinner in world cricket currently, like the Kohlis, Rahanes and Rohits, picks himself. Do not be surprised if he comes on to bowl the first over, with Gayle opening the batting along with Johnson Charles or Andre Fletcher.

Coming to India’s tail, Bumrah is a certainty in India’s playing XI for the T20Is v West Indies due to his wicket-taking ability and adeptness to tie the batsmen down during the slog overs. Bumrah, whose T20I economy rate is a hugely impressive 6.34 runs/over in 19 T20Is, featured regularly in the India’s playing XIs for the T20Is in Australia, against Srilanka at home, the Asia Cup, the WT20 2016, and versus Zimbabwe, and should likely play in both the T20Is against the world T20 champions.

Bhuvneshwar, with his natural ability to move the ball both ways and having had a memorable Test match on his return to Indian Test side in St Lucia, is likely to play as well. The UP seamer has played in just one T20I, which came against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Asia Cup 2016, in 2016, though he had a dream IPL 2016, winning the Purple Cap for taking 23 wickets.

Continuing on with the fast bowlers’ slots, Shami should also be a part of India’s playing XI for both the T20Is. He, like Bumrah, is a very good death overs bowler and is capable of delivering wickets in the mandatory powerplay. The Bengal pacer has not played any limited overs international games since India’s ouster at the semi-final stage of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. In terms of T20Is, Shami last played a T20I for India, against England in September 2014. So, I have no doubt in my mind that Shami will find the task of bowling to the T20 specialists in the West Indies side a truly challenging one.

The remaining slot will depend a lot on the combination Dhoni wants to go in with, largely depending on the pervasive conditions. Binny has proved himself as a capable all-rounder, through his exploits in the IPL, and, as aforementioned, being an all-rounder might well work in Binny’s favour. Even if the Karnataka man does not bowl his full quota of four overs, he can do a job with the bat lower down the order, while the same cannot be said about KL Rahul, Mishra and Umesh, who are quite one-dimensional and may affect the balance of the side. So, the likely 11th man in India’s playing XI, at least for the first T20I on Saturday, is Binny.

India’s playing XI for the two T20Is against West Indies (likely): Dhoni (C & WK), Rohit, S Dhawan, Kohli, Rahane, Binny, R Jadeja, Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar, Bumrah, and Shami.

Closing Thoughts

The Indian side which plays on Saturday will probably be stuck with for Sunday’s T20I as well, especially if the aforementioned XI features. In case the first T20I does not quite go to plan or if there is a desperate need for a change in personnel, then we may see a change, otherwise, India’s playing XI for the Saturday T20I will feature on Sunday too. Dhoni, by nature, is not a captain who chops and changes and given that these are proper international games—should not be mistaken as exhibition games because they are being staged in the USA—the Indian ODI and T20I skipper will want to win them.

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