Pant had opened the at bat with Rohit in India’s last two T20Is, scoring 1 and 26 respectively in Nottingham and Birmingham. India’s original plan for the West Indian T20Is was to reunite Rahul with Rohit at the top, but Rahul is still recovering from Covid-19 and will also miss the T20I leg of the tour.
Deepak Hooda’s versatile percussion and part-time offspin could potentially help him stay ahead of Shreyas Iyer and move into a middle class with Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik and Dinesh Karthik.
Ravindra Jadeja, who has returned to fitness, is currently India’s first-choice spin-bowling all-rounder in all formats, but Axar Patel has narrowed the gap between Jadeja and himself somewhat in white-ball cricket, with his exploits in the second ODI against the West Indies . If India chooses to manage Jadeja, who has suffered from injuries in the recent past, Axar is a ready-made like-for-like replacement.
However, Jadeja’s bowling could be tested by the left quartet of Kyle Mayers, Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer and Akeal Hosein. Against left-handed batters since the start of 2020, Jadeja has racked up 9.13 runs per over and picked up just eight wickets at a strike rate of 39. Axar has much better numbers against left-handers over this period: a thrift percentage of 8.10 to go with 12 wickets with a stroke rate of 20.
In Chahal’s absence, Ravi Bishnoi, who is more of a wrong ‘un specialist than a traditional leg pinner, or a fit-again Kuldeep Yadav could take a look. At the T20Is at home to the West Indies earlier this year, Bishnoi took three wickets in as many matches at an economic rate of 6.33. As for Kuldeep, he showed signs of his best during his IPL stint at Delhi Capitals and dominated the competition along with Chahal.
Kuldeep sustained a hand injury for the South African T20Is but has since recovered and was able to play his first T20I in almost six months. Ashwin is another option, and with Washington Sundar being asked to prove his form and fitness in county cricket, he will likely get his chance at some point on this tour.
Arshdeep had also swung the new ball and nailed his yorkers with the old one during the touring matches in England. And in IPL 2022, Arshdeep had bowled the most yorkers (38) – Bumrah also bowled as many – to Avesh’s 18. Now that Bumrah was rested, this could be Arshdeep’s chance to impress even more in T20Is.