India are set to beat New Zealand in the second Test with Ravichandran Ashwin taking three second-innings wickets as the visitors, chasing 540, fell to 5-140.
It was heartening to see some new faces in India’s T20 squad for the three games against New Zealand.
The selection of Shreyas Iyer and Mohammed Siraj provides some excitement, as does KL Rahul making a comeback after missing out from the ODI squad.
Both Siraj and Iyer had brilliant ‘A’ tours to South Africa this year, and also performed well against New Zealand A at home.
Iyer, in particular, was excellent in the tri-series, where he chased down the South Africans’ total in the finals with an unbeaten 140. He also had a great home series against a visiting New Zealand A team.
The biggest challenge will be giving these young players a fair run.
India played the ODI combination of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma in the only T20 against Australia, so it will be interesting to see if Rahul gets a go. He averages 50, with a strike rate of 150 in the nine T20 games he has played. Dhawan, on the other hand, averages just 20 at a strike rate of 114.
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Ashish Nehra also makes a comeback, although as he has announced his retirement from all forms of cricket, he will just play the first game. Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar complete the fast-bowling quartet.
The spin trio of Y Chahal, Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav have been retained, and India have once again failed to select a backup keeping option for MS Dhoni, meaning the veteran will play all three games.
In terms of batting, Rahul’s excellent record as an opener in T20 should make him an automatic choice but, give Dhawan was preferred ahead of him against Australia, the only two certain spots are Rohit Sharma and captain Virat Kohli. Hardik Pandya should take the all-rounder spot, followed by the spinners.
Nehra will most probably take the new ball in his final game, meaning India will have to choose between Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah for the first game, with the need to fit Siraj in one of the games as well.
The biggest negative in the squad though is the lack of a big hitter. Pandya features down the order, but with Dhoni’s power-hitting on the wane, India needs to unearth a good lower-order striker of the ball for the shorter format.
The Indian ODI and the T20 teams are top-heavy batting lineups with lots of sameness in the way the batsmen go about their business. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer are all similar players, with none big hitters from the get-go.
Selecting young players is a good move but they need to be allowed to prove that they belong at this level.