World T20 2014: Picking a Combined XI from Finalists India and Sri Lanka
As subcontinental rivals India and Sri Lanka prepare to face each other in the final of the 2014 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20 (T20) in Dhaka on Sunday, we dissect both country’s squads and come up with a strongest combined XI.
And so let us know your thoughts on the final makeup of our starting lineup, which has been selected based purely on performances in this tournament alone for a contest to be staged in Bangladeshi conditions…
There can be few better sights in the modern game than watching India’s opening batsman effortlessly caress the ball through the covers off either front or back foot, and the 26-year-old is not bad on the onside either.
And while Rohit Sharma may hav only gone on to reach a half-century only twice so far in the competition, against West Indies and Bangladesh, the fact that the right-hander always scores his run at a healthy lick sees him grab one of the two opening berths on offer here.
The 37-year-old just edges out compatriot Kusal Perera for the second opener’s spot on the basis of his greater all-round experience, while his unrivalled ground fielding in the deep and ability to bowl useful off-breaks also make the destructive right-handed batsman’s inclusion a necessity.
This World T20 has simply reaffirmed the India star’s position as currently the best batsman in the world across all three forms of the game. The 25-year-old has also been head and shoulders above his rivals in the tournament when it comes to the business of making quick runs under the extreme time pressures that are inevitably involved in this shorter format.
Despite appearing to be horribly out of nick at times in this competition, sometimes there is just no substitute to the big-match experience that the former Sri Lanka captain has built up over 17 years in the game.
And it is that crucial ability not to panic even when seemingly all at sea at the crease which Mahela Jayawardene demonstrated so brilliantly in compiling 89 from just 51 balls against England, and which sees the silky-smooth 36-year-old take his place in this combined XI.
The 27-year-old finisher just gets the nod ahead of fellow big-hitting India left-hander Yuvraj Singh, although it was a close run thing in the end. However, the former’s more impressive skills with ball in hand, and slightly better form with the bat, both mean Suresh Raina occupies the key No. 5 role in this particular lineup.
MS Dhoni (Wicketkeeper and Captain)
The ice-cool India skipper could probably make this starting XI solely as a leader and wicketkeeper, such are his unrivalled skills both as a tactician and behind the stumps.
However, when you also throw in his destructive and unorthodox middle-order batting too, then the 32-year-old’s inclusion ahead of a horribly out-of-touch Kumar Sangakkara becomes a mere formality.
With an uncanny knack of picking up wickets at crucial times, as well as an underrated ability with bat in hand that has not been needed so far by his country in Bangladesh, Ravindra Jadeja takes on the all-rounder’s role here to balance up this lineup.
By recording combined bowling figures of seven for 33 from 7.2 overs in India’s last two matches against South Africa and Australia, the tall off-spinner has once again reminded the watching world just what a class act he is.
The 27-year-old, who is also a dangerous lower-order batsman do not forget, has steadily become harder and harder to play as the tournament has gone on, let alone to try to score runs off at better than a ball. So he takes on the role as No. 1 spinner in this team.
The leg-spinner began this World T20 on fire, picking up man-of-the-match awards in India’s opening two Group 2 wins over Pakistan and West Indies after snaring four for 40 from his eight overs.
And while the fizz and loop may have since gone out of his bowling, relatively speaking, as the pressure has mounted on his shoulders, the tweaker still deserves a place in this XI based purely on the X-factor his leggies will bring to proceedings.
While the pint-sized slow left-armer may have mysteriously only played his first match in the competition in Sri Lanka’s final must-win Group 1 showdown with New Zealand, boy did the 36-year-old make up for lost time by turning in a man-of-the-match display while capturing stunning figures of five for three to send his team into the semi-finals.
And on subcontinental surfaces that take spin, such as we have seen so far in Bangladesh, it would be hard to omit the wily and hugely underrated tweaker from this particular starting XI.
In a format in which spin bowlers dominate, as seen by the current ICC T20 bowling rankings, the brilliant Sri Lankan is still a skilful enough performer with his eclectic mix of Yorkers, slower balls, off-cutters and whatever else the shaggy-haired paceman has up his sleeve, to get selected in this combined lineup.