T20 World Cup: Why India will miss the services of an explosive middle-order left-hander

Given that India’s top order for the T20 World Cup is stacked right-handers – and Rishabh Pant isn’t a guaranteed starter in the XI – India will likely miss an “impact” left-hander in the middle order, whose presence could have the Slightly reduced pressure on Dinesh Karthik, the team’s designated finisher.

There are some well-known benefits of having left-handers on the batting side, particularly in T20 cricket. The field has to change every time the shot changes, and bowlers are forced to change their plans and tweak their scrimmage as well.

In T20 in particular, the presence of one or two left-handers means opposing teams may be forced to include an off-spinner in a conventionally-favorable match-up against those batsmen, but the same bowler may then be attacked by the right-handers. Or a left-handed shooter can be sent in specifically to target a left-arm spinner or a leg spinner that might otherwise prove difficult for right-handed shooters to hit. It can also be used to aim for a shorter border from one end while right-handers attempt the same from the other end.

A key aspect of the Gujarat Titans winning the title in their debut season in the Indian Premier League was their ability to win the clutch moments in games. They consistently won games thanks to the finishing exploits of David Miller and Rahul Tewatia – two southpaws who won games in situations where their side seemed down.

While Miller has been known for years for his success with his national team South Africa as well as with T20 franchises around the world, Tewatia’s nerveless late strikes were a revelation. Aside from Karthik, Tewatia was the only Indian batsman to impress with his finishing exploits in the 2022 IPL. The 29-year-old hit 217 runs in the tournament with a batting average of 147.62, but he wasn’t part of India’s T20I scheme.

Rishabh Pant is not a guaranteed starter when playing XI. (File)

Axar Patel – the only other left-hander alongside Pant in the current India top 7 – is being cited by many as an equal replacement for the injured Ravindra Jadeja. But Patel is certainly not a three-dimensional player like Jadeja, although his recent bowling has been impressive. He picked up eight wickets in the recent three-game T20I home series against Australia, but his batting and fielding power hasn’t been anywhere near the standards Jadeja has set internationally.

Under Rohit Sharma, India had enough faith in Jadeja’s punching power to send him as high as fourth at times, including against Pakistan at the Asian Cup. On the other hand, Axar was used at best as a ‘pinch anchor’, sent in a few times in the middle overs at No. 6 as India attempted to hold Karthik to the death. Heading into a tournament like the T20 World Cup, Axar Patel – who has only had 120 deliveries in T20Is so far – is certainly not ideal in 6th place.

However, former Mumbai and India all-rounder Abhishek Nayar believes India’s batting quality is enough to make up for the lack of left-handed batsmen in the lineup.

“It’s more about the skill of the players than whether they’re right-handed or left-handed. Most lefties are now playing the switch hit and playing the off spinners well too. Ditto for the right-handed batters, everyone is playing well left arm or leg spinner now,” Nayar, the Kolkata Knight Riders assistant coach, told The Indian Express.

“I don’t believe in left-right combinations; Also, your right-handed or left-handed player needs to hit well – that’s what matters most in T20 cricket. In a T20, your planning depends on overs, not batting order,” added Nayar.

We take a look at some of the destructive southpaws in the middle tier of some of the teams who are contenders for the T20 World Championship alongside India.

Matthew Wade (Australia)

AUS vs. WI, Matthew Wade Matthew Wade in action for Australia.

The Pakistani cricket fan will never forget those sixes from Matthew Wade to Shaheen Shah Afridi. Wade, a nerveless finisher, pulled off a robbery in Dubai last year. Wade’s 17-ball unbeaten 41 helped Australia beat Pakistan in the semi-finals of the 2021 T20 World Cup and went on to win the title.

Since that shot, Wade has played 17 T20Is and has produced a couple of blinders in 12 innings since, most recently against India in Mohali and Nagpur. Wade’s unbeaten 45 with 21 balls helped Australia chase 209 with four wickets and four deliveries at Mohali. In the abridged eight-over affair at Nagpur, he crunched an unbeaten 43-for-20 to revive Australia from 46-for-4.

David Miller (South Africa)

David Miller, IND vsSA, T20 World Championship South Africa’s David Miller celebrates scoring his hundredth goal during the T20 second leg cricket match between India and South Africa on Sunday October 2, 2022 in Guwahati, India. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

After six dormant seasons, Miller finally exploded in IPL 2022 for the Gujarat Titans; He amassed 481 carries from 16 games with a batting average of 142.73 and hit 23 sixes. Miller has been a crucial cog in the Titans’ success and has evolved his offside play in recent years to become more destructive on the ground.

His daring batting continued in the recently ended white ball streak against India; Ravi Shastri praised him after his 47 balls and unbeaten 106 in the Guwahati T20I. The former India coach also said that with Miller in this form, South Africa have a good chance of winning the T20 World Cup.

Moeen Ali (England)

England’s skipper Moeen Ali, right, receives a trophy after winning the Twenty20 series during a awards ceremony at the end of the seventh Twenty20 cricket match between Pakistan and England in Lahore. (AP)

Moeen Ali was one of the key players in England’s aggressive approach to white ball cricket. He recently led England to a 4-3 win in the T20I series in Pakistan where he played some brilliant shots.

At the second T20I in Karachi he provided the final momentum with his 23 unbeaten 55 balls while batting first and at the fifth T20I in Lahore he went on to record an unbeaten 51/37 on a difficult surface. England went on to lose both games but Ali showed , the importance of having a devastating left-hand hitter at number 6. Last week, in the second T20I against Australia in Canberra, Ali forged a 92-run stand with David Malan from a 54-for-4 position and his 27-ball 44 shifted the momentum towards England.

Bhanuka Rajapaksa (Sri Lanka)

Sri Lanka’s Bhanuka Rajapaksa plays a shot during the T20 Cricket Asia Cup Final match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP)

Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s Asian Cup final hitter, had resigned earlier this year after being dropped for fitness reasons but was talked out of it. He came back and got the role of a finisher and he’s excellent at it now.

When he got through the middle in the Asian Cup final, Sri Lanka was 36-3. Soon they were teetering at 58-5, but his well-done unbeaten 71-45 helped Sri Lanka go 170-6, proving a to be profit amount. Rajapaksa’s good results throughout the year have made him a key player for Sri Lanka.

James Neesham (New Zealand)

James Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Highest sixth wicket partnership ODIs, Highest sixth wicket partnerships World Cup, New Zealand v Pakistan, Pakistan v New Zealand, PAK v NZ, NZ v PAK, James Neesham 97 v Pakistan, James Neesham highest ODI- Worth, ICC World Championship 2019 James Neesham registered his best ODI result of his career against Pakistan (Source: Reuters)

James Neesham’s career strike rate in T20Is is 163.65, showing why he is one of the most destructive power hitters in the game. He is the king of cameos.

His 11-ball 27 in Abu Dhabi was the punch that breathed life into the Black Caps’ chase in the 2021 T20 World Cup semifinals against England. In 12 T20I innings this year, Neesham’s batting average is an incredible 192.10, despite half of those innings having been played against Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands.

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