Team India's classical dilemma: Pant & Chahal over DK/Axar in semis?

Chahal & Axar
It remains to be seen whether India will go in with Yuzvendra Chahal in place of Axar Patel. File photo: AFP/Surjeet Yadav

India meet England at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday hoping to end an eight-year wait to enter the final of the T20 World Cup. The Men in Blue did well to top Group 2 after the shock exit in the Super 12 stage last year.

Rohit Sharma and Co. registered narrow wins over Pakistan and Bangladesh while dominating the Netherlands and Zimbabwe. Their lone defeat came at the hands of South Africa on a fast, bouncy track at the Optus Stadium in Perth.

The Men in Blue held their nerve at the crunch against Pakistan and Bangladesh. Virat Kohli turned the clock back to pull off a heist in the marquee clash with Pakistan, while the bowlers and fielders raised their game once the match resumed after a rain break against Bangladesh. 

The semifinal presents a different challenge altogether for Team India. India under Virat Kohli fell to New Zealand in the semifinals of the 2019 ODI World Cup after topping the group stage. India had also failed to get past the semifinals in the 2015 ODI World Cup and 2016 T20 World Cup. The pressure is immense in a knockout game for the simple reason that there is no second chance.

Jos Buttler-led England have a formidable batting line-up. The opening pair of Buttler and Alex Hales in addition to strokeplayers Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Harry Brook and the dangerous Liam Livingstone could come hard at the Indian bowlers. England's batting depth will test the Indian attack for sure. The short square boundaries at the Adelaide Oval will be tempting for the powerful England batters.

It will be interesting to see the Indian playing XI. Left-arm spinner Axar Patel has been the weakest link in the Indian attack. The team management has persisted with Axar for the sole reason that he adds more depth to the Indian batting. Axar has managed just nine runs from  three innings, while he has given away 85 runs from 9.2 overs while picking up three wickets.

The Indians have been reluctant to field leggie Yuzvendra Chahal so far in the tournament. The last Super 12 match against the Zimbabweans was a perfect opportunity to test Chahal. The Haryana spinner is a wicket-taker and has had success against England in the past. However, it is unlikely that India will play Chahal straightaway in the semifinals.

Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant
Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant are fighting for a place in the playing eleven. File photo: AFP/Chandan Khanna

Who will don the wicketkeeper's gloves is the other talking point. Veteran Dinesh Karthik played the first four matches before Rishabh Pant got a chance against Zimbabwe. The 'finisher' DK has been a disappointment to say the least. The Tamil Nadu player has scored 14 runs from three innings and he's been scratchy behind the stumps as well. DK does not inspire much confidence and going in with Pant for the big game is worth the gamble. Pant is a match-winner and if he gets going England could well be in trouble. India lack a southpaw in their top six and Pant fits the bill perfectly.

All in all it promises to be an absorbing contest. India need to adopt a fearless approach if they are to get past England.

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