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India vs England: Should India Persist With Rahul & Does Chahal Need A Break?

By: Nikhil Narain

Last Updated: March 18, 2021, 13:11 IST

India beat England by 8 wickets. KL Rahul scored a duck.

India beat England by 8 wickets. KL Rahul scored a duck.

With not many opportunities left before the World T20 in October, India have to allow the Rohit Sharma-KL Rahul duo to bat together at the top of the order and get some partnership momentum going before the mega event.

India will clash with England in the crucial fourth match of the five-match series in Ahmedabad on Thursday. Once again, for the second time in the series, India will be chasing England but this time with the extra pressure of a rare series loss if they fail to deliver in the crucial encounter. The home team has a number of issues to resolve with their opening combination at the top of the list. There is also a problem with their ace spinner whose economy rate has been on the constant rise in the last few years.

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India need to address the above concerns and some others before they select their final XI for the big match on Thursday. Weightage also needs to be given to the current form of players and the immediate priority has to be to draw level and then win the series. However, the larger picture of selecting the best combination for the upcoming World T20 later in the year also needs to be kept in mind.

What will India’s Best XI be for the massive clash then? Let us attempt to answer a few key questions.

Who Should Open The Innings?

This is a non-brainer. With captain Virat Kohli and batting coach Vikram Rathour backing KL Rahul as the first choice opener along with Rohit Sharma, India’s most successful pair in the format have to come out at the top of the order in the remaining two matches. With not many opportunities left before the mega event in October, India have to allow the Rohit-Rahul duo to bat together and get some partnership momentum going before the World T20. The pair have added 565 runs in just 12 innings for the opening wicket at an average of 47.08 and stunning run rate of 9.65 including two hundred and a fifty partnership.

Yes, Rahul is going through a tough phase with three ducks in his last four matches but he is undoubtedly one of India’s biggest match-winners in T20I cricket with a stellar record in the last few years. He was also the highest scorer of the IPL in 2020 and has the highest aggregate in the coveted league since 2018. Rahul cannot be dropped. He is too talented and brilliant a batsman who can single-handedly win India matches – just like Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in the XI. That cannot be said about the likes of Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav and even Ishan Kishan who still need a support act to complement their performance.

India need a third opener for the 20-over World Cup and their best bet would be Ishan Kishan. He played a match-winning knock on debut from the position and the fielding restrictions suit his attacking and risk-taking game. But for now, in the remainder of the England series, India need to stick to Rahul and hope he fires. He is massively important at the top of the order for India’s fortunes in a world event. Dropping him would further dent his morale and if anyone knows a bit about Rahul and his personality he is a big confidence player who needs constant backing and support.

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Of course, if Rahul continues to fail then India can go in with an all Mumbai Indians opening pair of Rohit and Kishan. Having played together for the franchise they will not need any extra batting practice together and can immediately settle in the role for the country.
Does Suryakumar Yadav Fit in the Middle-Order?

Virat Kohli should bat at the position where he has dominated the format for years – at number 3. India need to try Suryakumar Yadav at number 4 in the last two matches against England. Yadav has been a prolific run-scorer for Mumbai Indians since 2018 and added the extra dimension of ‘high strike rate’ to his game in the last season. He has to play in the XI in place of Shreyas Iyer who has been tried and tested with the selectors and captain having a good idea of his strengths and weaknesses. Yadav did not get a chance to bat on debut and was left out of the next match. It would be really unfair to not play him in the remainder of the series and then expect him to again perform in the IPL to be worthy of selection for the national team after.

Rishabh Pant is India’s X-Factor at number 5 while Hardik Pandya should bat at 6 – a batsman of his destructive prowess is wasted at number 7. With Washington Sundar in the side India should play the extra specialist bowler instead of wasting a position with a specialist batsman in the middle order.
Should Chahal Be Rested?

Yuzvendra Chahal has been the most expensive bowler of the series. He was India’s most expensive bowler in the first couple of matches and the second-most expensive in the third encounter. Chahal’s economy rate has been on the rise since his debut in 2016. His numbers since 2019 have seen a dramatic decline. His economy rate has gone up to as high as 9.14 in this period. Chahal has managed to bag just 18 wickets in 21 matches with no four-plus wicket haul in an innings in this time-frame. His bowling average has gone up to 41.66 and strike rate deteriorated to 27.3.

Thus, neither is Chahal getting the breakthroughs in the middle overs nor is he able to control the flow of runs. On the contrary, he is leaking boundaries which is putting pressure on the other bowlers. It will not be such a bad idea to rest the leg break bowler for the remaining two matches and draft in someone like an Axar Patel in his place. Axar will bring more control and discipline and that is what India need between overs 9 and 15 from their specialist spinner.

India should also get in T20 specialist Deepak Chahar in the XI. Chahar is a seasoned campaigner and excellent with the new ball. He has a knack of getting heaps of wickets in the powerplay and also is fairly restrictive. England go hard in the first six overs and the home team need to counter that – their best bet is Chahar along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
So this will be India’s Best XI for the remaining couple of matches in the series:

1. Rohit Sharma
2. KL Rahul
3. Virat Kohli
4. Suryakumar Yadav
5. Rishabh Pant
6. Hardik Pandya
7. Washington Sundar
8. Axar Patel
9. Shardul Thakur
10. Deepak Chahar
11. Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Let us see how closely the actual XI on the day matches with the best possible XI.

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first published:March 18, 2021, 13:11 IST
last updated:March 18, 2021, 13:11 IST