Rotation time, weather permitting

Team India hurdle
Team India hurdle (PC: BCCI/X)

The big question is whether the T20 World Cup match between India and Canada will take place. This is Florida’s wet season and although the sun has started to play a peek-a-boo, it’s a race against time for the ground staff at Lauderhill to make the outfield ready for the game. India are already through to the Super Eights, while Canada are out of the tournament. There’s nothing at stake, and no team would like to risk injuries.

The rain sent Pakistan to the Heartbreak Hotel, but India are sitting pretty with six points from three matches. For them, if the game takes place, it’s an opportunity to look into their bench strength ahead of the Caribbean leg of the T20 World Cup. Of course, Kuldeep Yadav is not a bench-warmer. He is actually the best spinner in the India squad, and will be hugely important against stronger opponents. Pitches in the Caribbean have been assisting turn and a fast bowler is likely to make way for a spinner in the playing XI in the Super Eights.

It would be remiss of the Indian team management not to pick Kuldeep if the game goes ahead on Saturday. Who should he replace? There’s a school of thought that Ravindra Jadeja should be dropped to accommodate the left-arm, wrist-spin bowler. Over the last three matches, the senior all-rounder has bowled just two overs of left-arm spin, against Pakistan. He didn’t bowl at all against Ireland and the United States. As regards to batting, Jadeja got an opportunity to bat in just one innings and he perished for a golden duck.

The New York pitch barely allowed the spinners to play any role, but India preferred Axar Patel over Jadeja in terms of the number of overs bowled. Axar bowled six overs in three matches and against Pakistan, after India lost a couple of early wickets, he was sent at No. 4. Axar’s rise as a utility cricketer has given the team management options.

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Team India for ICC T20 WC
Team India for ICC T20 WC (PC: BCCI/X)

Then again, Jadeja brings his all-round ability and experience to the table, and it’s unlikely that he would be rested. Rather, the game against Canada is an opportunity to help him get into the groove by sending him up the order and giving him his full quota of four overs. Jadeja’s services would be required in the West Indies.

This makes Mohammed Siraj vulnerable. India played four seamers in New York, for the conditions demanded that. It would be a luxury to stick to that in the Caribbean. To the team’s benefit, Hardik Pandya has left behind his IPL travails and regained his bowling mojo. He can be comfortably used as the third seamer. Arshdeep Singh is bowling well with the new ball, and he is considered to be a specialist at the death. Siraj has bowled well within himself, but replacing him with Kuldeep would be a pragmatic choice. In fact, a zero-pressure game like Canada gives India the chance to have a look at Yuzvendra Chahal as well, to keep him game-ready.

The game also gives the team management an opportunity to pair Yashasvi Jaiswal with Rohit Sharma at the top, with Virat Kohli batting in his natural position, No. 3. India’s Super Eights opponents are Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Australia. All of them have very good spinners, and Jaiswal is an excellent player against spin.

As for Kohli opening the innings, the conditions in New York made the Royal Challengers Bengaluru playbook redundant. Also, it’s not advisable to experiment with the team’s best batsman. India did it at the 2007 World Cup (50-over format) and suffered. Rahul Dravid was the captain of that side and didn’t overrule then head coach Greg Chappell’s decision to send Sachin Tendulkar at No. 4. Dravid is the head coach now, and hopefully, he would look back to move forward.

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