India’s T20I squad: Who will play the role of the second spinner? Or is it the back-up starter?

With a number of key players missing the South Africa series, this is an opportunity for others to answer key questions and stake a claim to a spot in Australia.

With the five T20Is against South Africa beginning on Thursday, India’s focus shifts to preparations for the T20 World Cup, which will be held in Australia in October-November. With Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and Jasprit Bumrah all out, it’s a chance for some of the backups to shine.

One major conundrum for India is how to fit Dinesh Karthik into the XI, but that is a topic for another day (watch these pages). There are a few more questions that need to be addressed.

Read Also: India vs South Africa: The objective is to strengthen our batting order before the World Cup, says Temba Bavuma

Who would be a good fit for the open middle-order spot?

In India’s middle order, there is only one position available; there are far more applicants than positions available.

Shreyas Iyer
Shreyas Iyer

Before the IPL, Shreyas Iyer annihilated Sri Lanka with 57* off 28, 74* off 44, and 73* off 45. All of those runs came from No. 3, which Iyer believes is his best position. However, Kohli will almost certainly bat there at the World Cup, despite his current form. Iyer has also performed admirably at No. 4 in the past, so it’s not as if he can’t bat lower in the order. The only problem is that he prefers to take his time settling in, which is something he should work on.

Deepak Hooda, who just had his best IPL season with 451 runs at a strike rate of 136.66, is the next candidate. More importantly, he batted anywhere from third to sixth base with ease. Another plus for him is that he can contribute with the ball if necessary.

Suryakumar Yadav, who is currently out with a forearm injury but is a 360-degree batter who can attack right away, is another option. This series is a golden opportunity for Iyer and Hooda to make their case, with Rahul Tripathi and Sanju Samson also knocking on the door.

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What is the identity of the second spinner?

Yuzvendra Chahal confirmed his status as India’s No. 1 T20 spinner with 29 wickets in IPL 2022, but the second spinner’s spot is still up for grabs. Ravindra Jadeja would have walked into that role a year ago, but a poor IPL performance followed by an injury has allowed others to take his place.

Kuldeep Yadav
Kuldeep Yadav

India has a like-for-like replacement for Jadeja in Axar Patel. Axar can bowl four overs on a regular basis, score quick middle-order runs, and field well. He is not a wicket-taker, like Jadeja, and spins the ball in the same direction as Chahal. Against a team with multiple left-handed batters, the latter could be a problem.

That’s where Kuldeep Yadav enters the picture. With a few tweaks, Kuldeep, an attacking wristspinner, appears to have rediscovered his rhythm. In addition to Chahal, he spins the ball away from left-handed batters.

Ravi Bishnoi, with his quick googlies, sliders, and legbreaks, is another contender. In February 2022, he made a good first impression during the West Indies series, but he is still a work in progress.

Read Also: India vs South Africa: The objective is to strengthen our batting order before the World Cup, says Temba Bavuma

Will India be able to find a back-up opener?

India is still looking for a replacement opener for Rohit and KL Rahul. The selectors had chosen Ishan Kishan for that role in the 2021 T20 World Cup, claiming that he could also bat in the middle order if necessary. The fact that he bats left-handed was considered a “important” quality, as was his wicketkeeping ability.

KL Rahul
KL Rahul

His current form, on the other hand, has been both promising and disappointing. He did score 418 runs in IPL 2022, but at a strike rate of only 120.11. With Rahul also available to keep, India will not require a third goalkeeper if Karthik makes the World Cup squad.

Ruturaj Gaikwad will be a tough opponent for Kishan as the opener. While Kishan is seen as a threat, Gaikwad is seen as a stabilizing force. Gaikwad didn’t have a great IPL season, but he did show flashes of brilliance on occasion. Both batters will get another chance to shine in the South Africa series.

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Who will emerge victorious from the field of fast men?

With Bumrah out for the series, the next in line is likely to have plenty of opportunities.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar is one of the best seamers in the world when he’s at his best. He had a good IPL season, but India would like to see him be more consistent and potent. He has a chance to become India’s preferred new-ball bowler in the absence of Mohammed Shami and Deepak Chahar. Not to mention, he can slog as well as anyone in the slog overs.

Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh
Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh

Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh are two of the newcomers. Both had impressive IPL seasons. Malik set the stage ablaze with his pace and emerged as Sunrisers Hyderabad’s middle-overs enforcer, taking 22 wickets in 14 games.

At the end of the game, Arshdeep relied on his consistency to keep batters quiet. Although he only took ten wickets in 14 games, his 7.58 death-overs economy was second only to Bumrah’s 7.38. (min. ten overs). If the opportunity arises, Umran and he will look to replicate their IPL success on a global scale.

Avesh Khan exists in the space between new and old. He’s been a part of the team for a while, but only recently made his T20I debut. He can bowl in all phases of the innings, unlike Umran and Arshdeep. In terms of fast-bowling options, India is spoiled for choice.

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