Team India will look to maintain their winning run against New Zealand, albeit in a different format, when they take on the Black Caps in the first of three T20Is in Ranchi on Friday.
India have largely been victorious in the new year; they began the year by beating Sri Lanka 2-1 in a three-T20I series in Hardik Pandya’s first full series as captain at home. That was followed by identical 3-0 sweeps against the Lankans and the Black Caps as the Men in Blue maintained their stranglehold on visiting teams on their home turf.
As has been the case with India’s squads for recent T20 assignments, Test and ODI skipper Rohit Sharma will be absent, as will Virat Kohli and other seniors such as Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, and KL Rahul, who only recently got married and will be back in action only during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Watch: MS Dhoni visits India dressing room ahead of T20Is against New Zealand
In a year where the ODI format takes centre-stage with a home World Cup looming, there isn’t much context for T20Is other than testing out various options in the lineup keeping next year’s T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and the United States in mind.
Prithvi Shaw comeback?
The focus once again shifts to the top three in the absence of Rohit and Virat for the T20Is. With Gill currently in the form of his life after scoring 360 runs in the three one-dayers, it is the backup options where things get interesting.
Ruturaj Gaikwad, who had been next in line for the opener’s slot, has been ruled out of the series with a wrist injury. Prithvi Shaw, who has long been overlooked by the Men in Blue, will be busy praying for an opportunity, which might be handed to him if Ishan Kishan produces another low score or two or the series is sealed with a game to spare.
Shaw, whose last appearance for India was during the tour of Sri Lanka in July 2021, has been in superb form of late for Mumbai across formats — finishing the second-highest run-scorer in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy with 332 runs at a strike rate of 181.42. He had also scored a staggering 379 during the Ranji Trophy match against Assam at nearly run-a-ball.
While Shaw certainly has the firepower to make the most of an opportunity handed to him and make life for the selectors and the team management even tougher, India T20I skipper Pandya backed Gill as the first-choice opener alongside Kishan, hinting at the fact that Shaw would have to wait for his turn.
“Shubman has done well and will start the series. The way he is batting and was already in the team,” Pandya said in a press conference on the eve of the first T20I in Ranchi.
Black Caps’ bowling a worry
A major worry for the Black Caps, who have had the wood over the Men in Blue as far as knockout matches in ICC events is concerned, is their bowling department heading into the T20Is. They ended up conceding scores of 349 and 385 when bowling first during the ODI series and barely offered any resistance after getting bundled out for 108 the only time they got to bat first.
And the manner in which Rohit and Gill toyed with the Kiwi attack in the third ODI during their 212-run opening partnership, it appeared as if the hosts would end up becoming the first team to breach the 500-barrier in ODIs.
New Zealand, who are being captained by left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner in the T20Is after being led by Tom Latham in the 50-over games, will hope express pacer Lockie Ferguson gets more support from the bowling unit. More importantly for the visitors, leg-spinner Ish Sodhi appears to have regained his fitness, and his return to the XI after missing out in the one-dayers could be a big boost as far as their hopes of opening their account on the tour is concerned.
India: Hardik Pandya (c), Suryakumar Yadav (vc, Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rahul Tripathi, Deepak Hooda, Jitesh Sharma, Prithvi Shaw, Shivam Mavi, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav, Mukesh Kumar, Umran Malik, Arshdeep Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal.
New Zealand: Mitchell Santner (c), Finn Allen, Devon Conway, Daryl Mitchell, Glenn Phillips, Michael Bracewell, Mark Chapman, Dane Cleaver, Benjamin Lister, Michael Rippon, Henry Shipley, Ish Sodhi, Blair Tickner, Jacob Duffy, Lockie Ferguson.
Venue: JSCA Stadium, Ranchi, Jharkhand.
Time: 7.30 pm IST.
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