Auckland, Jan 23:
Preparations for the World Cup on top of their agenda, India will take on an injury-hit New Zealand in a rare five-match T20 International series starting tomorrow during which seam-friendly wickets would be a major challenge for the visitors.
Unlike most overseas tours, this will be a quick start for the Indian team. In a tight season, the first T20 comes only five days after their last ODI against Australia at home.
The team arrived in Auckland on Tuesday and chose to rest on Wednesday. Thursday was when they hit the nets ahead of the tour-opening game.
On the plus side, this hectic schedule helps the team management maintain consistency in team selection as they continue experimenting across the available squad in a World Cup year. The T20 showpiece is scheduled to be held in Australia in October this year.
Despite injury issues to key white-ball personnel like Shikhar Dhawan, Hardik Pandya, Deepak Chahar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar this past home season, the bench strength has come across adequate and raring to go for challenges ahead.
It begins at the top where KL Rahul has stepped up as a key part of India’s white-ball plans.
He did enough against the West Indies as Shikhar Dhawan’s replacement to merit a starting spot, and then formed a solid pairing when Dhawan returned while Rohit Sharma was rested. And now, India will once again start this T20 series with Rohit and Rahul pairing up at the top.
Skipper Virat Kohli dropped hints that Rahul’s newfound confidence in his dual role as batsman-keeper has given vital options to the team.
According to Kohli, Rahul will continue to keep wickets in both ODIs and T20Is, but will open in the shortest format while returning to the middle-order in the 50-over format.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul (wk), Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Shreyas Iyer, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini, Washington Sundar.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Scott Kuggeleijn, Colin Munro, Colin de Grandhomme, Tom Bruce, Daryl Mitchell, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert (wk), Hamish Bennett, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Blair Tickner.
Match starts at: 12.20 pm IST. (PTI)
Auckland, Jan 23: