Despite India’s defeat in their campaign opener against Pakistan, former Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar wants to see the Virat Kohli-led team in the finale of the ICC T20 World Cup.

Team India will kick-off their T20 World Cup 2021 campaign by taking on Pakistan in Dubai on Sunday, October 24. Be it ODIs or T20Is, India have never lost to Pakistan in a World Cup match. Virat Kohli will be keen to keep that record intact in Dubai. India played two warm-up matches prior to the start of the Super 12 round and excelled in both of them. While India defeated England by seven wickets in their first practice match, they thrashed Australia by eight wickets in the second. Here’s a look at India’s predicted XI for the match against Pakistan.

Openers: Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul

India are likely to open with Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul in the big match against Pakistan.

India are likely to open with Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul in the big match against Pakistan. Rahul smashed 51 off 24 against England and 39 off 31 against the Aussies. Rohit did not play in the first game but led the team in the second and spanked 60 off 41, with five fours and three sixes, before retiring. India should stick with the tried and tested pair while taking on their arch-rivals.

Middle-order: Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli (c), Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant (wk)

The team think-tank will hope Kohli can lift his game on the big stage.

Ishan Kishan prospered as an opener in the first warm-up, blazing his way to 70 off 46. He hit form with a brilliant counter-attack in Mumbai Indians’ (MI) last league game against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in IPL 2021 and seems to be high on confidence since. Suryakumar Yadav scored an unbeaten 38 against Australia but Ishan looks the more dangerous of the two batters presently.

Indian captain Virat Kohli, for once, looks like a weak link in the batting order. He struggled to get the big hits in the IPL, especially after the powerplay overs, and looked out of shape in the first warm-up against England as well. The team think-tank will hope Kohli can lift his game on the big stage.

Since Hardik Pandya wouldn’t be bowling for a start, he will be expected to bat higher up the order, at No. 5. The hard-hitting batter struggled for fluency in both legs of the IPL. He did not have a lot to do in the warm-ups as well, scoring an unbeaten 12 off 10 in the first match and 14 not out off 8 balls in the second.

India’s dynamic wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant looks set to occupy the No. 6 spot. The left-hander’s confidence would be on a high, having spanked three sixes in his unbeaten 29 off 14 against England. However, a T20 World Cup clash against Pakistan will be a totally different cup of tea.

All-rounders: Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur

Any Indian playing XI these days is incomplete without the name Ravindra Jadeja on the scoresheet.

Any Indian playing XI these days is incomplete without the name Ravindra Jadeja on the scoresheet. Jadeja picked up the big scalp of Aussie skipper Aaron Finch in the warm-up encounter. Although Ravichandran Ashwin was impressive with 2 for 8, Jadeja is expected to get the nod owing to his all-round skills. Ashwin is no match for Jadeja as a batter or fielder.

Shardul Thakur went wicketless in the match against Australia, conceding 30 runs in three overs. But there is a strong possibility of the 30-year-old featuring in the XI against Pakistan. Thakur has been in brilliant form with the ball across formats and his ability to pick wickets at crucial intervals could work in his favour.

Bowlers: Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Varun Chakravarthy

Jasprit Bumrah will be India’s pace spearhead against Pakistan.

Jasprit Bumrah will be India’s pace spearhead against Pakistan. He claimed 1 for 26 against England, cleaning up the well-set Jonny Bairstow before being rested against Australia. The second seamer’s slot could be a tussle between Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Shami might get the nod as he claimed three wickets against England though he was a bit expensive. Kumar recovered well from the hammering he took against the Englishmen, ending with 1 for 27 against Australia. However, his confidence and form are a bit shaky.

Varun Chakravarthy bowled only two overs against Australia and went wicketless. Still, he is likely to play ahead of Rahul Chahar given his mystery factor and recent form in the IPL.

India’s predicted XI for the clash against Pakistan – Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (C), Ishan Kishan, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Varun Chakravarthy

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