3 reasons why India must play Kuldeep Yadav in T20 World Cup clash vs Pakistan

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Kuldeep Yadav was surprisngly left out of India's playing XI against Ireland

All roads lead to the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York as India takes on Pakistan in the much-awaited 2024 T20 World Cup clash on June 9. While the Men in Blue began their campaign with a comfortable win against Ireland at the same venue, the story was quite the opposite for their arch-rivals.

Pakistan suffered a shock defeat in a Super Over to co-hosts USA in their tournament opener at Dallas. The result has made the clash against India a near must-win for the Men in Green to garner hopes of advancing to the Super Eights.

That and India's overall dominance of 6-1 in their head-to-head meetings with Pakistan in T20 World Cups makes Rohit Sharma's Men the overwhelming favorites to pull off a second consecutive win to start their campaign.

Yet, Team India have a few selection issues to ponder, and none more so than whether or not to play ace left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav in the playing XI. The 29-year-old was a surprise omission in the Ireland clash and his place against Pakistan remains anybody's guess.

With that said, here are three reasons Team India must find a place for Kuldeep Yadav in their playing XI against Pakistan.

#1 Kuldeep has been in incredible recent form in T20s

Forget the nuanced reasons to play Kuldeep Yadav, just his recent form in the shortest format should always warrant a place in the Indian playing XI. The wrist spinner is coming off an impressive IPL 2024 season, picking up 16 wickets at an average of 23.38 in 11 games.

Kuldeep's overall T20I numbers are sensational, with an average of 14.10 and an economy of 6.74 in 35 outings. That Kuldeep has a four-wicket haul and two five-wicket hauls speaks to his match-winning abilities.

In his last 10 T20Is since the start of 2023, Kuldeep has been one of India's best bowlers, with 15 wickets at an average of 14.33 and an economy of barely over 6.

Team India would do well to use his sparkling form and get him into the tournament early to win the Pakistan game and ultimately complete their dream of lifting the T20 World Cup trophy.

#2 Kuldeep's excellent record vs Pakistan & their struggles against USA spinners

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The ultimate death rattle for Pakistan could be their dismal record against Kuldeep Yadav and how poorly they fared against even the USA spinners in their 2024 T20 World Cup opener. This combination should make playing Kuldeep Yadav against Babar Azam's men a no-brainer.

While Kuldeep has never played against Pakistan in T20Is, his exploits in ODI meetings could have a telling effect. In six matches against the arch-rivals, the 29-year-old has bagged 12 wickets at a brilliant average of 14.16 and a miserly economy of 3.77.

His previous two performances against Pakistan were in the Asia Cup and World Cup meetings last year, where he produced figures of 5/25 and 2/35 to help India pull off convincing wins.

If these aren't worrying enough for Pakistan, their inept showing against the inexperienced USA spinners only adds further cause for concern for them facing Kuldeep.

Left-arm spinner Nosthush Kenjige was the star of USA's bowling display against Pakistan with figures of 3/30 in 4 overs. His scalps included Usman Khan, Shadab Khan, and Azam Khan, and helped restrict Pakistan to a below-par 159/7 in 20 overs.

The other left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh also enjoyed a good outing despite going wicketless with figures of 0/34 in 4 overs.

Pakistan exhibited such struggles against spinners much less experienced and skilled than Kuldeep on a Dallas wicket that hasn't been nearly as daunting for batters as the New York track.

It must tempt the Indian management to ponder replacing one of the three specialist seamers with Kuldeep Yadav as a third spinner against an underwhelming Pakistan batting lineup.

#3 India must choose variety over batting depth

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Kuldeep Yadav adds the much-needed variety to an Indian bowling line-up that looks too stock standard for modern-day T20 cricket otherwise. The Men in Blue went with two left-arm orthodox spinners, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel to enhance their batting depth.

However, playing Kuldeep for Axar or Jadeja has to be the way forward in this era of T20 scoring where wickets are at a premium. Even if India prefers batting at No.8, they should consider playing Kuldeep for one of Mohammed Siraj or Arshdeep Singh, possibly the former due to the latter offering the left-arm option.

With Hardik Pandya showcasing his reliability with the ball in the Ireland clash, India may be playing one pacer too many with him, Siraj, Arshdeep, and Jasprit Bumrah.

Adding Kuldeep to the mix for one of the two left-arm orthodox spinners or one of the pacers will provide India with the perfect balance between attacking and defensive options and the additional variety that has become paramount for success in the T20 format.

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