One of the so-called heroes of India’s win against Pakistan was all-rounder Akshar Patel. It not only provided batting depth but also flexibility in the batting order to face the moving ball and protect the more valuable batsmen. Not only that, he bowled a crucial 16th over and dismissed a left-hander with a short leg-side boundary and settled.

Axar’s squad did not have a conventional selection, let alone an XI. He is largely similar to Ravindra Jadeja, both left-arm spinners, both handy batsmen. In the past, India have opted to go with an off-spinner instead of these two to play the matchups well. This time, not only have they brought both of them to the World Cup, but they have also played both of them in the starting XI.

India have only bowled two left-handed batsmen in the top 7 so far, making the call easy. However, Axar did not do any harm to his chances of continuing in the team. Especially the way he batted at No. 4 against Pakistan, scoring 20 off 18 balls in a 39-run partnership with Rishabh Pant. More so because it wasn’t called for pinching or pinching.

“From the first match, the captain has said that only the openers’ place is fixed,” Aksar said of his promotion. “He said in the team meeting that the rest of the batting order will be flexible. It will depend on the game situation, conditions, bowlers, combinations, match-ups. My brief was never to shout slogans. Just play. ” The more common cricket shots I can face with the new ball, the easier it will be for Hardik Pandya and Shivam Dubey.

What it does mean, though, is that India didn’t play someone who has the advantage of practicing a very rare art and doing it very well: Kuldeep Yadav. There is only one other left-arm wrist spinner in the tournament. India’s bowling coach Paras Mehmbare said that Kuldeep understands and appreciates that his sitting out is not a measure of his skill but a question of team balance.

The fact that Kuldeep has not played is also probably due to some unforeseen circumstances. New York’s pitches have been extremely seven-friendly. This has created a need to play all three seamers and add some depth to the batting. This includes an abundance of right-handed batsmen to bowl to.

“It will depend on the opponents, it will depend on the level,” Mehmbare said when asked what conditions could bring Kuldeep. “I think even with Aksar, if you look at the IPL, he has bowled very well. The advantage is that we have him there in terms of performance and rhythm, in terms of confidence.

“Dropping the seamer and playing the spinner (may be) depending on the circumstances, but the other thing that Aksar does is that he gives you so much depth in terms of batting as well, which was a lot in the last match. It was obvious. We had to promote someone like him, he played a very important role for the team, he scored runs at that stage, because the ball was challenging, swinging.”

There will likely come a time later in the tournament when Kuldeep will be called upon as Mehmbare said batting depth is non-negotiable. “I don’t think so,” he said when asked if he was always going to go with the No.8 batsman. “I think it’s (the) level. It’s purely on the opponents, purely on the level. If you feel, maybe at some level, you need an extra bowler. We’ll go with that combination.”

This raises a question, though. Imagine if India feel they need to play three seamers but need more penetration in the spin department or need to counter left-handed batsmen, two left-arm spinners in place of Kuldeep. Who is an all-rounder? Aksar is a more versatile T20 batsman than Jadeja, and Aksar’s runs against Pakistan put more pressure on Jadeja.

Mhambrey, though, said the team is not worried about Jadeja’s batting form. “It’s a team game, right?” When asked if there was any discussion about Jadeja’s batting, he said. “It’s going to be 11 guys. You don’t really expect all of them to be in form (at the same time). It’s a long tournament. Someone like Jadeja, who’s so experienced, it’s only one game. Get his groove back and we know he’s got the talent and the experience, he’s going to step up and win you games.”

Axar vs Jadeja will still be a tough call. If they are to be made.

Siddharth Monga is a senior writer for ESPNcricinfo.

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