Shardul Thakur (L) and Ravichandran Ashwin© AFP
The Indian cricket team went into the Cricket World Cup 2023 with a few questions regarding their batting line-up with experts and fans wondering how they will manage the No. 4 conundrum. However, a match-winning knock by KL Rahul against Australia and Shreyas Iyer‘s return to form against Afghanistan has actually allayed fears and provided the hosts with somewhat of a concrete line-up. Ahead of a crucial match against Pakistan on October 14, that was good news for the fans but just as one question was answered, a new dilemma has reared its head. With Ravichandran Ashwin playing the first game in Chennai and then making way for Shardul Thakur in the next game at Hyderabad, a new question exists about the bowling team combination that can prove to be a major headache for selectors.
Traditionally, the pitch at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad is considered to be a paradise for batters with a slight help for fast bowlers. In the Indian Premier League (IPL), Rashid Khan is a clear exception in a leading wicket-takers list that is dominated by the pace duo of Mohit Sharma and Mohammed Shami. While statistics can show just a portion of the entire story, it surely boosts Shardul’s case for selection. The fast bowler has enjoyed a tremendous run of form himself at the Narendra Modi Stadium and when it comes to T20Is at the venue, he is the most successful bowler in history.
Batting can be key
The other major advantage that Shardul has over Ashwin when it comes to the playing XI against Pakistan is the threat that he provides as a batter. In a pitch that is well known for providing able support to batters, the Indian cricket team may look to add more firepower in the batting lineup along with the two all-rounders – Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya. While Ashwin is also a major asset when it comes to batting with the tail, Shardul has proved his mettle in the recent past and in comparison, his mix of fast bowling and batting prowess will certainly make him a favourite for the clash.
Experience holds the key?
While the scales are slightly tipped towards Shardul, the one thing that can never be discounted is the experience that Ashwin brings to the battle. The veteran is a classic comeback story as he made a surprise return in the Australia ODI series just ahead of the World Cup and even made it to the competition in place of the injured Axar Patel with the help of a decent showing. Ashwin has faced Pakistan 8 times in his career and has taken 10 wickets at an economy rate below 5, Ashwin was a part of the 2011 World Cup winning team and in a high-voltage game like India vs Pakistan, the veteran may hold the edge over Shardul if India look to bank on his knowledge in pressure situations.
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