India vs West Indies 2019: Questions for Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team before first T20I
Shikhar Dhawan, Krunal Pandya, KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja

The Indian cricket team resumes playing international cricket for the first time since the loss to New Zealand in the semi-final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 on July 10 when it faces West Indies on Saturday in the first T20I in Florida.

The first of three T20Is – two at Lauderhill, one in the Caribbean – opens up a lengthy tour of the West Indies for Virat Kohli‘s team, which also includes three ODIs and two Tests.

Central Broward Regional Park
Florida’s Central Broward Regional Park has hosted eight T20Is. @Getty

Given the changes to the limited-overs squads for this series, there are several questions hanging over India headed into the opening T20I.

Where will KL Rahul bat?

In his 27 career T20Is, KL Rahul has opened 13 times, batted at No 3 seven times on at No 4 on four occasions. With Shikhar Dhawan back from injury, one would assume that he teams up with Rohit Sharma upfront. That leaves India to decide whether to drop Kohli down a spot and play Rahul at one-down, or use Rahul at No 4.

The last time Rahul played a T20I in Florida, he hit 110* off 51 balls – from the No 4 spot.

There is also the option of not playing Rahul in the T20Is and seeing what Shreyas Iyer can offer. With Manish Pandey almost a certainty to bat at No 6, Iyer can only foreseeably slot in at No 4 if Rahul is benched.

(ALSO READ: India’s T20I squad an indication of 2020 T20 World Cup planning)

Should India ease Shikhar Dhawan back in the ODIs?

Another line of thought is that India’s team management hold Dhawan back for a couple of T2oIs, or even wait until the ODIs starts. In this scenario, Rahul could open with Rohit and Iyer bat at No 4.

Shikhar Dhawan india national cricket team
Shikhar Dhawan has not played for India since June 9. AFP

Over the last 12 months, Dhawan have scored 333 runs in nine T20I innings at a strike-rate of 132.14. In this time, he has two fifties and two scores in the forties. In two innings in Australia last year, he hit 76 off 42 balls and 41 off 22. During the 2019 IPL, Dhawan top-scored for Delhi Capitals with 521 runs at 34.75 and a strike-rate of 135.67.

Good numbers, but seeing that Dhawan is returning from a lengthy injury lay-off, it might be wise to ease him back a little later in the series.

Ravindra Jadeja or Krunal Pandya?

With Hardik Pandya rested, one allrounder’s spot has gone to Ravindra Jadeja. The second belongs to Krunal Pandya, who was already in India’s previous T20I squad. So who plays?

Both are left-arm spinners and both can hit a long ball, but Jadeja is the better fielder. His batting heroics in the World Cup semi-final could also tip the scales in his favour. Where Krunal holds the edge is in his ability to bat higher in the order.

What will India’s bowling attack be?

Bhuvneshwar Kumar getting another chance in T20I means he will be the leader of the bowling, with left-armer Khaleel Ahmed getting a chance to revive his India career. You can expect Krunal and Jadeja to duke it out for one spot, if not both get a chance as India’s spin pair at Lauderhill, which leaves Deepak Chahar, Washington Sundar and the uncapped Rahul Chahar and Navdeep Saini fighting for one spot.

Deepak Chahar CSK
Deepak Chahar performed consistently for IPL 2019 finalists CSK. BCCI

Given his success for Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2019, it is likely that Deepak Chahar gets the nod to join Bhuvneshwar and Khaleel in India’s XI on Saturday.

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India’s T20I squad: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (wk), Krunal Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Rahul Chahar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini

India’s likely XI: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 KL Rahul/Shreyas Iyer, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Manish Pandey, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Deepak Chahar, 11 Khaleel Ahmed