As India prepares for its final T20 series before the upcoming T20 World Cup in June, the return of Rohit and Kohli to the T20I lineup has added a layer of complexity to the team’s composition. Despite a convincing 4-1 victory over Australia and a 1-1 draw against South Africa, the management faces the challenge of integrating these two experienced players back into the side after a 14-month hiatus. While their inclusion for the World Cup seems all but confirmed, the focus now shifts to how head coach Rahul Dravid will adjust the playing XI to accommodate Rohit and Kohli. The upcoming three-match T20I series against Afghanistan, commencing on January 11 in Mohali, serves as a crucial platform to fine-tune strategies and determine the optimal team combination. The selection decisions made in this series will likely provide insights into India’s approach and lineup for the much-anticipated T20 World Cup in the USA and the West Indies.

Replacing Shubman Gill and Yashasvi Jaiswal:

The inclusion of Rohit and Kohli may lead to Shubman Gill and Yashasvi Jaiswal making way in the playing XI. Both young players have had impressive T20 performances, but the return of the experienced duo could see them sidelined.

Jitesh Sharma vs. Sanju Samson:

Jitesh Sharma, who impressed in the finisher’s role in the last two T20I series, may compete with Sanju Samson for a spot in the XI. Samson’s inclusion is based on his recent sensational century in the ODI series against South Africa.

Rinku Singh’s Role:

With Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya injured, Rinku Singh might get a chance to solidify his place in the T20I XI. His selection, however, might mean sacrificing a bowler, impacting the team’s bowling options.

Shivam Dube’s Inclusion:

The absence of Hardik Pandya has left a gap for a fast-bowling all-rounder. Shivam Dube, who had a strong IPL 2023 season, is a potential candidate. However, his role, especially in terms of bowling, remains a consideration for Dravid and Rohit.

Balancing the Bowling Options:

The team management needs to balance the bowling options carefully. The potential inclusion of Rinku Singh or Shivam Dube may mean having one less bowler in the playing XI, affecting the team’s overall balance.

Exploring Backup for Hardik Pandya:

With the absence of a direct replacement for Hardik Pandya, the team might explore options like Shivam Dube to fill the void. However, the decision to include him in the playing XI will depend on his recent form and role in the team.

As the T20I series approaches, the coaching staff led by Rahul Dravid will need to carefully assess the strengths, weaknesses, and roles of each player to create a well-balanced and competitive playing XI against Afghanistan. The challenge lies in integrating the experience of Kohli and Rohit while maintaining the team’s overall effectiveness in both batting and bowling departments.

A look at probable playing XIs for India in the three-match T20I series against Afghanistan:

Option 1:

Rohit, Gill/Jaiswal, Kohli, Tilak, Rinku, Jitesh/Samson, Dube, Axar, Kuldeep, Arshdeep, Avesh.

This lineup emphasizes a balanced mix of experienced players (Rohit, Kohli) and promising talent (Gill/Jaiswal, Rinku). The inclusion of Dube provides an all-round option, and the bowling attack looks solid.

Option 2:

Rohit, Gill/Jaiswal, Kohli, Tilak, Dube, Jitesh/Samson, Sundar, Axar, Kuldeep, Arshdeep, Avesh.

This option introduces Sundar for additional spin options. The team relies on the depth of its batting order with Dube and Sundar contributing both with the bat and ball.

Option 3:

Rohit, Gill/Jaiswal, Kohli, Tilak, Dube, Jitesh/Samson, Axar, Kuldeep, Arshdeep, Avesh, Mukesh.

The inclusion of Mukesh strengthens the bowling attack. This option prioritizes a balanced bowling lineup with Axar, Kuldeep, Arshdeep, Avesh, and Mukesh forming a varied attack.

Option 4:

Rohit, Gill/Jaiswal, Kohli, Tilak, Rinku, Jitesh/Samson, Axar, Kuldeep, Arshdeep, Avesh, Mukesh.

Similar to option 3, this lineup includes Rinku in the middle order. The bowling attack is well-rounded, providing various options for different match situations.

Option 5:

Rohit, Gill/Jaiswal, Kohli, Samson, Rinku, Dube, Axar, Kuldeep, Arshdeep, Avesh, Mukesh.

This option features a slightly different middle order with Samson and Rinku. The team continues to rely on a strong bowling unit for effectiveness.

Ultimately, the decision on the playing XI will depend on the team management’s assessment of player form, opposition strengths, and the match conditions. The variations in these options offer flexibility to tailor the team composition based on specific requirements during the T20I series against Afghanistan.


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