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Probable XI of Team India in the match against Pakistan in Melbourne

India will take on arch-rivals Pakistan in their opening match of the T20 World Cup at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia on Sunday. India has lost their two previous encounters against their neighbours and will want to set the record straight.

The Blues will also have happy memories of the ground where they beat Pakistan in the ODI World Cup in 2015. On that note, we will try to predict India’s playing eleven on Sunday.

#1 Rohit Sharma

The skipper will be one of the most important players for India. His ability to hit pulls and hooks should come in handy on Australia’s bouncy tracks; hence, India will want a good start from him.

However, he will not find it very easy to clear the ropes on Melbourne’s big ground, and Pakistanis will pack the boundaries on the leg side with fielders. Shaheen Afridi will also try to trap him in front of the wicket with the deliveries that come into the right-hander.

#2 K L Rahul

Rahul has not been in the best of forms recently but showed improvement in the home series against South Africa. He also exhibited the ability to play lofted shots in the warm-up match against Australia that saw him race to a half-century.

Rahul’s flicks and lofted on-drives might be useful against Pakistan, too. The pitch of MCG will not be as bouncy as the one at Gabba, but the ball should come onto the bat quite nicely early in the innings.

#3 Virat Kohli

If India is to post a big total, Kohli will have to spend as much time on the crease as possible. The former Indian captain has developed a habit of playing more sensibly and building the innings, and he should not change his approach in Australia either.

Kohli’s ability to find the gaps with his copybook ground shots should be very critical on Australian tracks. Instead of going for the aerial route at MCG, Kohli will probably try to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible. You can check Virat’s T20 stats against each opponent here.

#4 Suryakumar Yadav

The in-form man will continue exhibiting his wristy elegance, but he can hit big sixes that might prove useful in Australia. He will likely score many runs through the deep square-leg and fine-leg regions and try to hit the Pakistani spinners for big sixes.

Yadav’s presence during the middle overs should be critical for India’s success. However, he might find the extra bounce a bit difficult to handle as it is more difficult to use one’s wrists against deliveries that bounce higher.

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#5 Hardik Pandya

The lone genuine all-rounder in the line-up, Pandya’s ability to play off his back foot should be useful in Melbourne. He can clear the long-on boundary with his shots off the back foot and will look to do the same against Pakistani pacers.

Pandya should also use the extra pace and bounce to score runs behind the wicket with his uppercuts. He will also play a critical role as the fifth or sixth bowler, as the pitch in Melbourne should suit his ability to hit the deck.

#6 Rishabh Pant

It is here that the Indian management will have to take a call. Dinesh Karthik has been chosen to play the finisher’s role, but Pant’s ability to play big strokes should get him the nod over the former.

Pant is particularly strong on the leg side and might find the Pakistani spinners easy to score off. Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz typically turn the ball into the left-hander, and the southpaw should make good use of it. Moreover, Pant is arguably a better wicketkeeper than Karthik at the moment and should play against Pakistan.

#7 Ravichandran Ashwin

Many people might want to include Axar Patel, but Ashwin’s experience should get him the nod. Axar is quicker through the air, and it might be easier for the Pakistani batters to hit big shots off him.

Ashwin also has more variety and can bowl flighted deliveries with less pace. He is also a better batter than Axar and should play against Pakistan. However, he has to make sure that his fielding does not become a liability.

#8 Yuzvendra Chahal

It might seem surprising to a lot of people, but Chahal might be the most important among all the Indian bowlers in Australia. He can bowl the ultra-slow delivery with a lot of flight, and the Pakistani batters might be tempted to go after those and hole out in the deep.

Chahal will also get an extra amount of bounce in Australia, and that should be an added advantage for him. However, he has to ensure that he does not end up bowling too many loose deliveries like many wrist spinners usually do.

#9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar

Yes, Bhuvneshwar has gone for many runs in recent matches for India, but his ability to take wickets with the new ball cannot be overlooked. Moreover, he is also the most experienced Indian bowler in this format and hence, has to play against Pakistan.

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Bhuvneshwar will not get many swings in the air with the new ball in Australia, but the surface movement should help him. He got wickets with the late movement of the ball in the warm-up match against Australia and should be ready to repeat the act against Pakistan.

#10 Mohammed Shami

Shami showed no signs of rustiness in the match against Australia, and his ability to bowl with a wonderfully upright seam position should be important in Melbourne. He is likely to generate a lot of seam movement in Australia and thereby trouble the Pakistani batters.

Shami’s bowling in the death overs will also be critical against Pakistan. He can bowl lethal Yorkers, which might help him get wickets late in the innings.

#11 Harshal Patel

Again, the team management will have to take a call here. Some might be inclined to go with Arshdeep Singh, but he is unlikely to get many swings in Australia, and Harshal has a better slower delivery that might come in handy in Australia.

The batters will find it difficult to clear the boundary if the pace is taken off the ball, and hence, Harshal might play a key role with his slower stuff in Melbourne. However, he has to ensure he does not overuse the slower bouncers against Pakistan, as they might cost him a few extra runs.


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