There was a lot of speculation regarding India's playing XI for the T20 World Cup, which has only increased after some high-profile inclusions and exclusions. The BCCI announced the 15-member squad and three reserve players on Wednesday, September 8 to throw the Indian cricketing community into widespread debate.
Veteran opener Shikhar Dhawan and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal were left out, with the young duo of Ishan Kishan and Rahul Chahar selected in their place. Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur and Shreyas Iyer, all of whom stood a real chance of being selected in the main squad, were named as reserves.
Ravichandran Ashwin, who last played a T20I for India in 2017, was recalled to the shortest-format side, while his state teammate Varun Chakravarthy found a place despite having played only a handful of games for the country.
Who is part of India's strongest playing XI for the T20 World Cup?
India's squad for the T20 World Cup: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Rahul Chahar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Varun Chakravarthy, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Deepak Chahar (reserve), Shardul Thakur (reserve), Shreyas Iyer (reserve)
Here is India's strongest XI for the T20 World Cup, which starts on October 17 in the UAE.
Openers: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul
Rohit Sharma, one of the best white-ball openers in the world and the vice-captain of the side, will open the batting. Accompanying him will be his newfound Test partner KL Rahul, who opened the innings in the recent T20I series against Australia and England.
Without Dhawan, the onus will be on Rohit and Rahul to give the team an excellent start at the top. Captain Virat Kohli has spoken about an interest in opening the innings, but he should take up his standard No. 3 spot to get the most out of Rahul.
Ishan Kishan, who has batted in the top order throughout his short international career so far, will serve as the backup opener.
Middle Order: Virat Kohli (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk)
Virat Kohli hasn't tasted success yet as captain in ICC tournaments, having lost the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy, semi-final of the 2019 World Cup and the final of the 2020-21 World Test Championship. He will be hell-bent on setting the record straight, especially with a renowned captain like MS Dhoni part of the support staff as a mentor.
Suryakumar Yadav has played only four T20Is and seven total international games, but he has already become one of the key cogs in the Indian batting lineup. An outrageous player of spin who has imparted momentum into the innings almost every time he has entered the middle, the 30-year-old will slot in at No. 4.
Although Kishan has made his way into the side, Rishabh Pant will be the first-choice wicket-keeper. The 23-year-old is slowly finding his feet in white-ball cricket after an indifferent start to his career and could have a breakthrough tournament.
All-rounders: Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja
Hardik Pandya's place in the Indian side has come under serious question of late, but he remains one of Kohli's most trusted players. Now that he has started bowling regularly as well, the all-rounder will probably play as the third pacer in a spin-dominant attack. He is expected to contribute regularly in both departments.
Ravindra Jadeja has competition from Axar Patel for his place in the side, but he should walk into the playing XI as one of the most valuable all-rounders in the world. The first half of the 2021 Indian Premier League showed why Jadeja is a massive asset to any side he is part of, and his coming of age with the bat as a finisher has given India a massive boost.
Bowlers: Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rahul Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Varun Chakravarthy
India will have to decide whether to play three pacers depending on the conditions, but the makeup of the squad suggests that they believe the conditions in the UAE will assist spin.
Jasprit Bumrah will be the leader of the pace attack, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar should pip Mohammed Shami to a spot in the playing XI owing to his variations and prowess at the death.
India will have to choose two out of Varun Chakravarthy, Ravichandran Ashwin and Rahul Chahar. Given how important wrist-spinners have been to T20 teams' success over the last few years, Chahar should be the lead spinner, with Chakravarthy having the edge over Ashwin due to his unique brand of mystery spin.
If India want to beef up their batting slightly, Ashwin might be in line to play his first T20I in over four years. But Chakravarthy is a lethal T20 weapon that could be unleashed in the T20 World Cup despite a lack of experience.
How do you think India will line up in the T20 World Cup? Have your say in the comments!