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What could India's starting XI look like at the T20 World Cup?

The major takeaways from India's squad for the 2024 T20 World Cup

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
With India announcing their 15-man squad for the 2024 T20 World Cup, here are some of the key takeaways from the selection, and a look ahead to what the first XI could be for the tournament in the USA and West Indies

Rinku loses out to Chahal

As reported here, the last spot in India's 15-man squad for the 2024 T20 World Cup came down to a choice between Rinku Singh and a back-up bowler. It must have been a tough decision to omit Rinku because India need an in-form hitter of high pace in the middle- and lower-middle order, and he has been exceptional in the opportunities he has got for India. To pick him, though, India's selectors would have had to go without a specialist bowler among the back-ups. Eventually, they went with a second wristspinner in Yuzvendra Chahal instead of a fourth fast bowler in Avesh Khan. It seems like a specific selection for sides against whom India can play two wristspinners.

What would have been the point of picking Rinku?

From Rinku's point of view his exclusion seems heartbreakingly unfair, but from the team's point of view India are already struggling to fit Shivam Dube into the XI. So where would Rinku have fit in?
This situation began when Hardik Pandya, India's T20I captain for a while last year, was sidelined by injury for a long time after the 2023 ODI World Cup. Keeping his fitness in mind, India's selectors and coaching staff decided they needed someone else as captain. In came Rohit Sharma, who had been "rested" from T20Is since the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia, for the home T20I series against Afghanistan in January. With Rohit came Virat Kohli, who also hadn't played a T20I between the 2022 T20 World Cup and this January.
Rohit is believed to have asked for Kohli for his temperament, but picking Rohit and leaving out Kohli would have been difficult for the selectors. The debate over their explosive hitting ability might rage on, but Rohit and Kohli along with Yashasvi Jaiswal and Suryakumar Yadav means India have a top four who don't bowl or keep wicket.
A wicketkeeper and two allrounders will likely make up the lower-middle order. That leaves hardly any room for Dube in the starting XI, or Rinku.

Can Dube fit in?

In a conservative XI, he can't, but there are left-field options. The team management could leave out Jaiswal, open with Rohit and Kohli, and free up the No. 4 spot for Dube. If they can trust Ravindra Jadeja to bowl four overs, they could leave out Hardik and possibly rely on one over from Dube, who unfortunately has not bowled at all for CSK this IPL season because of the Impact Player rule.
There is another, more enterprising way to fit Dube in. Play the spin allrounder - Jadeja or Axar Patel - at No. 8 and go with just three specialist bowlers. That, though, is a leap of faith the team management might not be willing to take even if it provides batting depth.

Is India's batting depth at issue?

In a straightforward XI from this squad, India will not have any six-hitters after No. 7. It is a strange shortcoming in Indian cricket that specialist bowlers who can do some power hitting down the order don't exist. The team has already shown signs of moving on from players with the batting ability of Shardul Thakur if they cut it as specialist bowlers.

So what might India's first XI look like at the World Cup?

For conditions that are not extremely spin-friendly, the following could be the probable XI:
Top order: Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav
Middle order: Sanju Samson/Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja/Axar Patel
Spinner: Kuldeep Yadav/Yuzvendra Chahal
Fast bowlers: Jasprit Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh, Mohammed Siraj
And two out of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Hardik Pandya and Shivam Dube.
If India play on a slow track, they can pick another spinner instead of a third fast bowler. They could either go with both Jadeja and Axar to strengthen the batting, or both Kuldeep and Chahal for a more potent wicket-taking attack.

Sidharth Monga is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo