A week's break has been a really long one for the Indian cricket fan. While India were completely outplayed by Pakistan in their opening T20 World Cup campaign, in their off days, they have not only seen Pakistan win two more matches in their Group, but every other team in their Group, barring New Zealand, would have played at least 2 matches before they begin their match against the BlackCaps.
Since India did not have the best outing against Pakistan, the wait seems even more agonizing with Indian fans having to see other teams accumulating point after point but the Indian team stuck at 0 points. However, now when the match is over a day away, followers of Indian cricket want the team management to pick the best XI for the match against New Zealand based on current form and conditions and not purely on the stature and reputation of the players.
T20 Cricket may sometimes need bold decision making and perhaps this is the time that Virat & Co could really press their feet on the accelerator and take some bold decisions with regards to their selection, especially with MS Dhoni in the dugout for advice who took some bold decision himself when he was the captain.
Here is what India's Best XI for the match against New Zealand could look like:
1. Rohit Sharma
No questions about it. Rohit Sharma has to be in the XI at all costs. The team banks on his experience as an opener. Usually, the key for him is to survive the first few balls after which he looks to go for his strokes. The Hitman is a dangerous batter since he can hit the good balls for boundaries and do it with ease and grace rather than power and might. The Mumbai Indians captain would hope to get a big score in this match and once he gets going, the team invariably finds itself in a strong position.
2. Ishan Kishan
One has to back Ishan Kishan on current form. Moreover, the left-handed batter will be a counter to the left-arm swing bowler of the opposition which has troubled the Indian top order in the past. Kishan could be India's X-factor as he looks to make the best of fielding restrictions and showed what he is capable of not only in Mumbai Indian's last match of IPL 2021 but also in Team India's warm-up fixture.
3. Virat Kohli
Run-machine Virat Kohli is at number 3 and there is no better pick at this position than the India captain. He even scored a fighting half-century against Pakistan after India lost three wickets in the powerplay overs against the Men in Green. However, he did not get the desired support at the other end. Kohli would want to continue his run-scoring form but would like to contribute in a more dominating way, perhaps that will happen when India finds itself in a solid position rather than in a spot of bother like against Pakistan.
4. KL Rahul
KL Rahul gives flexibility to India's batting order. He has batted in the middle order before and could go back to do the same if the team calls upon him to do so. The right-handed batter has got the game to be able to rotate strike during the middle overs and hit the boundary towards the end. With Kishan given the license to go all guns blazing at one end, allowing Rohit the first few balls to get his eye in followed by Virat at 3 and Rahul at 4, this has the appearance of a well-rounded order with even a left-hander in there.
5. Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant will be the man at number 5. He did play a useful inning in the game against Pakistan but got out just when he needed to get going. Pant would want to learn from that error and try and convert his start into a big score in case the team needs him. In case, the side is looking for a strong finish Pant can again come in handy in these wickets where he has played a few good innings recently.
6. Hardik Pandya
Fortunately or unfortunately, there is no batter who comes close to Hardik Pandya's hitting ability at this number. This implies that even if he is not able to bowl, Hardik can do the job for Team India with the bat. It is true that runs have been hard to come by for Hardik recently but one has to back him for at least this match and then see how things stand with regards to his fitness and the balance of the side. He was even bowling in the nets which might suggest that he is getting closer to bowling in the match although it might still be a while away.
7. Ravindra Jadeja
There should not be many questions about Ravindra Jadeja's place. His improved batting has given India a great option at number 7 along with his bowling and fielding. The left-handed cricketer often fields at the hotspots and will have a job to do in a pressure match for India. Jaddu has been finishing the matches for his side recently as well and if there is a tricky situation, one can trust Sir Jadeja with the bat.
8. Shardul Thakur
Shardul Thakur should get a game on current form with the ball plus his added ability with the bat. For Chennai Super Kings, Shardul did produce quite a few spells where he changed the complexion of the match with his wicket-taking knack. The right-arm bowler can be a little expensive at times but gives the captain a wicket-taking option during the middle overs where is often used. Unfortunately, Bhuvneshwar Kumar will have to miss out if Shardul plays this game as he has not been in good form either in the IPL and did not show much improvement even in the match against Pakistan.
9. Ravichandran Ashwin
There is no point in having selected a senior cricketer like Ravichandran Ashwin and keeping him on the benches. With India under pressure after a defeat against Pakistan in the first match, it is time to call for the experience of Ashwin. The right-arm off-spinner can not only bowl upfront in the powerplay overs, filling the void of perhaps someone like a Bhuvneshwar Kumar if he is benched, but with a couple of left-handed in the Kiwi top-5, Ashwin will even be a preferable matchup.
10. Mohammed Shami
For all the criticism, much of which was unfair, hurled upon India fast bowler Mohammed Shami, he is likely to get a game and be a vital part of India's match against New Zealand. Shami was just not able to find the right length the other day and by the time he came back for his final over, the match had for all practical reasons been over and the batters were all set with 10 wickets in hand. However, once Shami gets it right especially in the powerplay overs along with perhaps an Ashwin from the other end, it would be a sight to behold for Indian cricket lovers.
11. Jasprit Bumrah
The leader of the pace attack would be Jasprit Bumrah. He can bowl upfront, he can bowl at the death and he can be used for an over in the middle overs when searching for a wicket. Captain Kohli will always have an eye on Bumrah whenever he is looking to get a wicket or get back into the match. Bumrah did not complete his quota of overs in the last match but would be a key bowler in this match with India still searching for their first wicket in this tournament.