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India at T20 World Cup: Kohli, Bumrah or Ashwin, who among the 15 hold key against Pakistan

In Team India's 15-member squad, there are 9 players who are 30 years old or above, 2 T20 international debutants. India's first match is against rivals Pakistan Sunday.

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New Delhi: With nine players above the age of 30 in the 15-member squad for the ICC T20 World Cup, India seems to be betting on experience to take the trophy home. The Men in Blue will step out onto the field Sunday to take on Pakistan in their opening game of the tournament, with statistics heavily weighing in India’s favour.

After winning the first T20 World Cup in 2007 (against Pakistan), India has failed to even make it to the finals in the six T20 WCs played so far. The only exception was 2014.

India has been paired with Afghanistan, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Scotland in Group B, while South Africa, West Indies, England, Australia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will fight it out in Group A in the Super 12 stage. The tournament’s Super 12 stage starts Saturday with a Australia vs South Africa match.

Before India begins its T20 World Cup campaign, here’s a look at the Men in Blue, age-wise:

Ravichandran Ashwin

As Captain Kohli said at the ICC’s pre-T20 World Cup media event Saturday, it appears  the oldest player in India’s 15-member squad for T20WC — Ravichandran Ashwin, 35 — has been ‘rewarded’ for scalping 145 wickets in his 12-year long IPL career. The world’s best spinner also boasts of 52 wickets in T20 cricket, of which 20 have been T20WC dismissals.

Whether the senior off-spinner will be picked for the playing XI may just boil down to the left-hand batsmen on the opponents’ teams that could, especially, be crucial in the powerplays. While Ashwin warmed the bench during India’s last international tours, he has been judicious enough to mould his game to suit different formats, making his return to the shortest format of the game even more exciting.

However, his batting and bowling prowess doesn’t shine against Pakistan in T20 cricket, making his chances for selection in Sunday’s clash appear dim.

Rohit Sharma

After his skipper, Rohit Sharma has the most number of runs (2,864) to his name in the T20 history, including four stellar 100s. In six T20 world cup tournaments, the 34-year-old batsman has scored 673 runs. His latest stint in the IPL 2021 may have not been fruitful as a skipper, but as an experienced batsman for Mumbai Indians, he gathered 381 runs in the league.

In India’s nine-wicket win against Australia in the warm-up match Wednesday, Sharma’s 60 off 41 is just the form India is hoping for before kicking off the tournament Sunday against Pakistan.

Virat Kohli

In his last outing as the captain of India’s T20 side, Virat Kohli, 32, is surely hoping for a big bang ending. One look at his batting records in the shortest format of the sport could convince many of just the same.

He happens to be the only Indian, besides Lokesh Rahul, featuring in the T20 world rankings. The 4th ranked batsman has the highest number of runs to his name (3,159), of which 777 were scored during previous T20 world cups.

While Kohli the batsman seems to be in a cracking form, it’s Kohli the skipper that might need a nudge every now and then. Having his old skipper M.S. Dhoni, the most successful Indian captain in the history of T20 WC, as a mentor could be just the ticket.

Ravindra Jadeja

2,603 runs and 166 wickets — these are the numbers one of India’s best finishers has achieved in his outing as an all-rounder in T20 cricket, including IPL. Ravindra Jadeja, 32, single-handedly helped his IPL team, the Chennai Super Kings, defeat Royal Challengers Bangalore in the recently concluded 14th edition of the league. A couple of run-outs, an unbeaten 62 and a wicket — the left-arm spinner played each role effectively, helping his side win their fourth title.

These statistics do amplify the significance of having the southpaw in the playing XI, however, with Ashwin fighting to make it on the field too, it might be quite a pickle for  coach Ravi Shastri, mentor Dhoni and captain Kohli.

If anything, the recent warm-up games and qualifiers have proved that spin could be the game-changer on the slow pitches in the UAE. India has not just two, but four spinners in its 15. Whether experience triumphs over young blood or India plays to their strengths and bring both Ashwin and Jadeja out to play, could chart the path for India’s victory in the world cup.

Suryakumar Yadav

Having just played three T20 international games, Suryakumar Yadav may not evoke the same confidence as his seniors, but the IPL games could be a good indicator of what the 31-year-old has to offer.

The right-handed batsman has played for Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians in nine IPL editions. He has scored 2,341 runs, including 13 half-centuries. With a strike rate of 143.43, Yadav gathered 317 runs for his side in the recently concluded league.

Mohammed Shami

Whether Mohammed Shami, 31, will be able to break into the playing XI could be anyone’s guess, but it’s clear that the right-arm fast bowler has been selected for the 15-man squad because of his back-to-back stellar performances in the IPL matches.

With an average of 35.67, Shami has taken 12 wickets in his 12 T20 international games.

In 14 IPL matches in the 2021 edition, he has 19 wickets to his name and 79 dismissals in 79 IPL games to date.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

Bhuvneshwar Kumar is one of those players who has been preferred for his precious experience in the sport rather than his current form. He was in poor form in the 14th IPL edition and frequent injuries have dogged right-handed pacer’s cricketing career in the recent past. Despite that, his skipper seems to be rooting for him.

The 31-year-old has the third-highest T20 international wickets (50) for India and 142 IPL dismissals to his credit.

Also read: Bangladesh, Sri Lanka & who? Meet the teams, key players in 1st round of T20 WC starting today

Varun Chakravarthy

The 30-year-old bowler may have arrived in the cricketing world much later than his teammates, but has managed to catch selectors’ attention by his attacking spin while playing for Kolkata Knight Riders in the previous three editions.

He has just played three T20 internationals and bagged two wickets but many experts have been batting for him on the basis of his calm demeanour in the high-voltage IPL games.

With 36 wickets in his IPL career, Chakravarthy could provide the edge to Team India in crucial matches on much-familiar UAE pitches.

Shardul Thakur

Nearly over a week before India begins its 2021 T20 WC journey, BCCI promoted Shardul Thakur to the 15-member squad, dropping Axar Patel to standby players.

Rightly so, since the 30-year-old has 31 wickets to his name in 22 T20 internationals.

He also happens to be the fourth-highest wicket-taker in the recent IPL season having picked 21 wickets in 16 games for Chennai Super Kings. Seeing his last-minute entry into the Team India squad, one would hope that fans get to see more of him in his T20 WC debut.

The Pataudi Trophy series, right before the IPL, was proof enough of the magic ‘Lord Shardul’ could create, much like his teammate Jadeja, at crucial junctures of a game.

K.L. Rahul

The Punjab Kings skipper is being touted as the firecracker in Kohli’s arsenal of right-handed batsmen. Having scored 626 in 13 innings, Rahul ended his 8th IPL league with an impressive feat.

Although he has faced Pakistan in just one ODI, the 29-year-old would be raring to prove his mettle in the Sunday clash.

He has scored 1,557 runs, the third-highest among the 15-men squad, in 49 T20 international games.

Hardik Pandya

If the team management goes strictly by the statistics, it would be a fool’s errand. The right-handed all-rounder has 484 runs and 42 wickets to his credit, spanning across 49 international matches.

However, it’s his current form that would be the biggest concern. Wracked by injury, Pandya has failed to get even one wicket in 12 games in the recent IPL edition, albeit 127 runs have been a saving grace.

It is clear that the 29-year-old has been picked for his ability to don both caps with a dogged determination, a trait well appreciated by his skipper Kohli.

Jasprit Bumrah

Pace machine Jasprit Bumrah is, undoubtedly, the most dangerous Indian bowler any opponent will have to face. At 59, he has the most number of T20 dismissals among his 14 other teammates selected for the world cup.

Bumrah has proved his brilliance both in red-ball and white-ball cricket and his records speak for themselves. And, with 21 wickets in the latest IPL season and a stellar performance in the India-England Test series just before, the 27-year-old would be raring to go.

Rishabh Pant

The Delhi Capitals’ wicketkeeper-batsman may have missed out on the IPL orange cap this year, but his 419 runs ensured a spot in the Team India squad.

The fans are already excited to see how Pant would perform with gloves after pictures of him receiving tips from mentor Dhoni went viral.

The 24-year-old has scored 512 runs from 33 innings in T20 international matches.

Ishan Kishan

The 23-year-old batsman will be making not just his World Cup debut but also T20 International one.

From whatever little he has to show for, he has clearly left the team management impressed with 1452 runs in 61 IPL matches, of which 241 were scored in the last season.

Rahul Chahar

The youngest player of the Team India squad created a stir after he dismissed Glen Maxwell in the recent warm-up game against Australia.

With 43 wickets in 42 IPL matches, the 22-year-old leg spinner could be eager to launch his T20 international career.

Also read: Namibia and Scotland make history, set to join India’s Super 12 group in T20 World Cup


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