In this year of ODI World Cup, bilateral T20I engagements may not draw as much of the spotlight as they normally would. But that said, the India-New Zealand series beginning in Ranchi on Friday still has a fair number of pulls to interest the fans.
First and foremost will of course be Hardik Pandya, who will once again be in charge of the team in T20Is. Rohit Sharma, who led India to a sweep in the preceding ODI series against the Black Caps, is again not in the squad. No Virat Kohli as well. It’s a team for the future that Hardik, a captain for the future, would be leading.
It’s important that Hardik continues to impress with his leadership skills because no one knows what lies in the future. Though Rohit hasn’t given up on T20Is, it is clear that the Board wants to bet on Hardik first. Positive results may keep him in a good spot to be the regular captain in white-ball cricket in the future. And given the dynamic nature of the game, no one can be sure how near or far is that possibility at present.
Hardik will not be the only one who will need to prove his worth. There will be expectations from almost everyone in the playing XI.
Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan will be eager to prove that they are the openers for the future. The exciting Prithvi Shaw is also in the squad, but Hardik, on Thursday, made it clear that Shubman, who has been in rousing form of late, is the first choice. “Shubman has done well and will start the series,” Hardik said.
The sensational Suryakumar Yadav is expected to continue showing the world and the selectors of his powers.
On the bowling front, it’s a young attack — short on experience, high on promise. Shivam Mavi, Umran Malik, Arshdeep Singh and Washington Sundar will all be eager to put in meaningful performances.
New Zealand, captained by Mitchell Santner, will hope missing some of their key senior players does not reflect on their performance.
Being in Ranchi has also meant the team has got to interact with former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. “Mahi bhai is here which is good as we get to meet him... When we meet, we try to talk about life rather than the game,” Hardik said.
Whether it’s the game or life, there is a lot to learn from Dhoni. Captain Hardik knows that.