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Virat Kohli expected to shine on big stage against Afghanistan as India ponder over Kuldeep Yadav question

The only way to fit Kuldeep into the team is to either drop Mohammed Siraj or Arshdeep Singh for the wily spinner

PTI Bridgetown Published 19.06.24, 02:19 PM
Virat Kohli (left), Kuldeep Yadav (right)

Virat Kohli (left), Kuldeep Yadav (right) File picture

Virat Kohli will be expected to hit his straps after a lean run while left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav will anxiously wait for his chance when title-favourites India face a sprightly Afghanistan in their opening Super 8 fixture of the T20 World Cup here on Thursday.

The big talking point ahead of the game is the Indian team combination.


Will India go in with the same line-up that worked for them in the group league stage or bring in their best spinner over the last 12 months, Kuldeep, at the expense of a specialist pacer now? At the start of the tournament, skipper Rohit Sharma had expressed his keenness to include all four all-rounders -- Hardik Pandya, Shivam Dube, Axar Patel, and Ravindra Jadeja -- in the playing eleven.

That strategy suited the Indian team in the bowler-friendly conditions in New York and the captain is expected to retain the winning combination that stretches their batting till number 8.

The only way to fit Kuldeep into the team is to either drop Mohammed Siraj or Arshdeep Singh for the wily spinner. If that does happen, Siraj is most likely to be benched.

If the two practice sessions of the Indian team are an indication, the pitch could offer plenty to the spinners making Kuldeep's case stronger. With the gentle breeze blowing across the Kensington Oval, the pacers should get the ball to swing in the powerplay.

As is often the case, all eyes will be on Kohli, who is yet to log a double digit score in the tournament. His strategy to go for his strokes did not yield the desired results in New York but he is expected to be at his imperious best on the better wickets in the Caribbean.

The 35-year-old is always operating at 100 per cent and the intensity he showed during the training sessions was a testament to his exemplary work ethic.

Shivam Dube, who was brought into the side to hammer sixes in the middle and death overs, has sent the ball out of the park only once in this competition.

The pitches in USA did not allow him to go after the spinners. He would be expected to change that in the Super 8s and beyond.

India's premier T20 batter Suryakumar Yadav too was back among runs against USA, albeit not in his usual swashbuckling style. But the effort was enough to boost his confidence.

Besides Kohli, runs are pending from the bat of Hardik Pandya, who has been exceptional with the ball.

On the bowling front, Arshdeep Singh has grown in confidence with each passing game, playing perfect wingman to Jasprit Bumrah in both the powerplay and death overs.

With the surface likely to aid the slower bowlers, Axar and Jadeja would be backing themselves to make a decisive impact in the game.

Afghanistan, on the other hand, head into the Super 8 fixtures after a humbling loss to the West Indies in St Lucia.

Their bowling attack, which allowed them to boss their first three games, was put to sword by the hard-hitting West Indies batters.

Captain Rashid Khan saw the defeat as a blip in an otherwise impressive campaign, insisting that his team remains a worthy contender for a semifinal berth.

"As a bowler, you need to come up with plans to keep the scoring to under 10. The morale is still pretty high and this loss does not affect us. We have achieved our first goal of reaching the Super 8s and now it is about taking the next step," Rashid had said.

He will be heavily banking on left-arm pacer Fazalhaq Farooqi, who provided them with wickets in the powerplay and is currently the leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 12 scalps.

If he can the swing the ball back in like he has thus far, Rohit and Kohli will need to be on high alert.

Rashid himself will be looking for wickets at a frugal economy rate in the middle overs.

On the batting front, in-form openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran would be once again be crucial to the team's chances.


India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Hardik Pandya, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Siraj.

Afghanistan: Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wicketkeeper), Ibrahim Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Azmatullah Omarzai, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Karim Janat, Rashid Khan (c), Noor Ahmad, Naveen-ul-Haq, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Hazratullah Zazai, Fareed Ahmad Malik, Mohammad Ishaq, Nangeyalia Kharote.

Match starts at 8pm (IST).

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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