WT20: Pandey, Rahane may come in for Shikhar, Yuvraj in semis vs WI

  • Sanjjeev K Samyal, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Mar 31, 2016 14:42 IST
Ajinkya Rahane and Manish Pandey are likely to replace a misfiring Shikhar Dhawan and injured Yuvraj Singh, respectively, for the World T20 semifinal against West Indies. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

For the players, the most interesting activity on match eve is the team management’s meeting. Usually, it happens at the team hotel.

Interestingly, on Thursday, MS Dhoni & Co chose to conduct the meeting at the ground itself. And, this is the first time in the tournament that the think-tank has to make a change in the playing XI.

Most eager about the outcome were Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey and Harbhajan Singh. All three are in the running. In the cues from the nets, Pandey looked to be the front-runner to replace the injured Yuvraj Singh. But, then on his way out, chief selector Sandeep Patil whispered something in Rahane’s ears. Such whispers are generally considered good news.

Rahane to open?

Ajinkya Rahane inspects the pitch during a practice session at the Wankhede. (PTI)

It is learnt that the team is considering the option of using Rahane as an opener instead of Shikhar Dhawan. In the build-up for the World T20, Dhoni has focused on having a settled combination. But Yuvraj’s injury and the poor form of the other batters have upset his plans. The team is over-dependent on Virat Kohli. The only support for Kohli has come from Dhoni and Yuvraj. And now Yuvraj is out with a tear in his left-ankle.

Dhawan, Sharma, Suresh Raina and Hardik Pandya will all admit they have been below-par so far. Sharma is averaging 11.25, Dhawan 10.75, Raina 10.25 and Pandya 8. They have all perished going for big shots.

Shot selection

As the batting unit sweated it out in the searing heat at Wankhede, the focus was on getting their shot selection right.

Read | With Yuvraj injured, India batsmen work extra hard ahead of semifinal

“I still believe we’ve played to 70 per cent of our ability. You can’t depend on one or two players, you need six or seven players to step up. Let’s hope it happens tomorrow,” said Team Director Ravi Shastri.

Having the ability to play big shots straight up, Pandey can be a straight fit at Yuvraj’s No 5 position while Rahane’s reputation in T20 has been built batting at the top of the order for Rajasthan Royals.

And, if the team is looking to have another option against Chris Gayle, then off-spinner Harbhajan can come in.

Batting was supposed to be India’s strength, however, it’s mainly the effort of the bowlers which has helped India reach so far. One reason for it is also the slow wickets India have played on.

On Thursday, the conditions are likely to change a bit. Although the pitch will offer turn, 180 seems a par score. It means India will need their full batting might to put pressure on the Caribbean power-hitters.

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