RANCHI: A three-match T20 International series ahead of Border-Gavaskar Trophy and the big-ticket ICC event, the 50-over World Cup later in the year, feels much like a shy person going to a rave party – without much to look forward to.
However, there are many fringe or second-choice players who demand longer ropes and are knocking at the door to come into the first team on a more regular basis.
For these players, the absence of the king-size regulars — like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Axar Patel — is probably the biggest opportunity for the fringe players to grab the selectors’ as well as team management’s notice.
So, when India take on the Kiwis in the series opener hereon Friday, it will be one of the last three chances for many youngsters — like home boy Ishan Kishan, Prithvi Shaw, Sivam Mavi, Arshdeep Singh, Umran Malik, Deepak Hooda, Washington Sundar and Rahul Tripathi — to stoke the selectors’ curiosity ahead of the more important series and tournaments in future across formats. For stand-in skipper Hardik Pandya, too, the series will be another chance to make his case stronger as captain in the shortest format as well as in the 50-over format in the future.
For another young bloke Ruturaj Gaikwad, it is the end of opportunities for now, as the Maharashtra opener was ruled out of the series with a wrist injury. He had complained of wrist pain after the Ranji Trophy match against Hyderabad. Gaikwad is presently undergoing treatment at NCA, Bangalore. BCCI hasn’t announced any replacement for Gaikwad as the squad already has three specialist openers in Shubman Gill, Kishan and Shaw.
As for New Zealand, they would look to leave the ODI whitewash behind and start afresh in the T20Is under new captain Mitchell Santner. With Michael Bracewell and Devon Conway coming up with brilliant individual performances with the bat, the Kiwis will hope their top order fights inunison to give them a headstart in the series.
The visitors have included left-arm seamer Ben Lister in the squad. He is very much in the Trent Boult mould with his ability to swing the ball both ways.
Should the speedster get his debut cap on Friday, New Zealand will pin their hopes on Lister for early breakthroughs. Much will depend on Santner and Ish Sodhi as the experienced tweakers in the side.
India’s 360-degree man, Suryakumar Yadav, will look to make a statement following his not-so-good performances in the ODIs against New Zealand. Deepak Hooda, with his recent match-winning show with the bat, looks likely to get the nod for the second allrounder’s slot ahead of Washington Sundar.
The batting is looking strong following the huge totals India put up in the ODI series. There some work to be done in the bowling department. Left-arm seamer Arshdeep Singh, likely to lead the pace attack in the absence of senior pros, will hope to come up with a tidy spell. He is likely to have Malik and Mavi for company.
In the spin department, India will have to make a choice between preferred leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, who has impressed in recent outings against Sri Lankan and the Kiwis.