211019 Rahul Kishan
Ishan Kishan (left) matched KL Rahul blow-by-blow during India's warm-up win over England on Monday. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: What will be the playing XI for India when they take on Pakistan in the marquee clash in T20 World Cup in Dubai on October 24 (Sunday?) The topic always raises the storm in the tea cup and any spot under scrutiny (remember the No.4 spot in 2019 World Cup?) seems a subject of national debate.

Speaking after their emphatic warm-up win against England on Monday night, skipper Virat Kohli said he was certain about the top three in KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma as openers and him coming at number three. This was a departure from his initial plan of coming out to open in T20s - something which he experimented in the white ball series against England earlier this year as well as in the IPL.

“Things were different before IPL started and now KL Rahul is playing the way he is, so it’s very hard to look past him at top of the order,” a candid Kohli said. “Rohit is a no-brainer. He has been a world-class player right at the top of the order for us. I will be batting at three.”


A 90-plus stand for the first wicket against a quality seam attack of England - comprising of Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Chris Jordan - albeit in a somewhat relaxed environment of a warm-up game at the ICC Academy grounds showed that Rahul was keen continuing from where he had left off in the IPL. The timing of his pick-up shots, not to speak of the lofted drives were as pleasing as ever in his 51 (off 24 balls) but what must have been satisfying for the team management was the way young Ishan Kishan took on the role of the aggressor.

Kishan’s form, however, gives India a happy problem as it gives them an interesting option lower down the order. It’s difficult to see Kishan playing ahead of Surya Kumar Yadav at No.4 with Rishabh Pant coming in at number five. Hardik Pandya, who came in at number six, looked comfortable in his brief stay but this is where Kohli & Co will have to discreet in making their selection.

Pandya did not bowl again in the warm-up and if the question mark over his bowling persists, then India will be forced to play three of their mainline pace bowlers and two spinners - a move which may leave them with a batsman short.

Hardik Pandya
The question mark over Hardik Pandya's bowling abilities continues to persist even as the World T20 has now begun. Image Credit: PTI file

Cricketing logic may say it could be a toss-up between Pandya and Sharul Thakur - with the latter proving to be a late-bloomer who has made tremednous strides as an international allrounder in the last 12-13 months. Thakur is certainly more than an adequate fifth bowler as his ability to provide breakthroughs with his cutters and slowers proved quite an asset for Chennai Super Kings in their successful IPL campaign.

Incidentally, ‘Bhuvi’ looked short on confidence as he went for 54 runs off his four overs as Jonny Bairstow took him to the cleaners. As for the spinners. there is enough likelihood that the experienced off-spinner Ravi Ashwin may be preferred along with Ravindra Jadeja.

A few more pieces of the jigsaw in the puzzle will be solved after the second and last warm-up game against Australia on Wednesday.