Harbhajan Singh has picked his preferred Team India XI for their T20 World Cup 2022 opener against Pakistan in Melbourne on Sunday, October 23.

The Men in Blue defeated Australia by six runs in their first warm-up match ahead of the global event. Their second and final warm-up game against New Zealand on Wednesday, October 19, was rained off.

During a discussion on Star Sports, Harbhajan was asked to pick his Indian side for the crunch game against Pakistan. He replied:

“I feel the team is straightforward. I feel Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik and Axar Patel will be in the team. Yuzi Chahal will play along with them. After that Arshdeep Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami.”

The former India spinner feels Harshal Patel, Deepak Hooda and Ravichandran Ashwin will have to wait on the sidelines for the time being. He said:

“This is my choice. Harshal Patel might not get a chance. I feel Deepak Hooda and R Ashwin will not get a chance in the first few games. I am seeing this as the starting XI.”

Apart from the aforementioned players, Rishabh Pant is the other member of India’s 15-member squad who does not figure in Harbhajan’s chosen XI.

“Shami’s role becomes even bigger with Bumrah not being there” – Harbhajan Singh

Mohammad Shami was included in the Indian squad as Jasprit Bumrah's replacement.
Mohammad Shami was included in the Indian squad as Jasprit Bumrah’s replacement.

Harbhajan wants Mohammad Shami to shoulder greater responsibilities in Jasprit Bumrah’s absence due to a back injury. He elaborated:

“Shami getting fit is a good sign for the Indian team. The style of bowler he is, experience matters a lot on the big stage. Shami’s role becomes even bigger with Bumrah not being there. We hope that he lives up to those expectations.”

Harbhajan was also asked if Ashwin could be picked in the XI considering the success Michael Bracewell enjoyed against the Men in Green in the recent tri-series. He responded in the negative, reasoning:

“I don’t think R Ashwin will get a chance because the batting looks slightly long with Axar Patel’s presence. If Axar Patel doesn’t play, you cannot depend so much on R Ashwin’s batting in T20Is, he is good in the longest format.”

Axar Patel is likely to be a certainty in India’s playing XI. Ashwin could make the team at the expense of Yuzvendra Chahal if the team management wants to go with a slightly more defensive spinner and additional batting depth.

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Edited by Sai Krishna

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