Rahul Dravid’s first assignment as India coach will see a new-look side – led by Rohit Sharma – take on World Cup finalists New Zealand in a three-match T20I series, which begins in Jaipur on Wednesday.
Virat Kohli announced in September that he would relinquish the T20 captaincy following the World Cup, and his tenure ended in disappointing fashion, as the pre-tournament favourites crashed out in the group stages.
Kohli’s decision to step down as T20 captain also coincided with the departure of head coach Ravi Shastri, and Rohit and Dravid have been tasked with spearheading a new era for India in the shortest format of the game.
Rohit has led Mumbai Indians to a record five IPL titles since being appointed permanent captain in 2013, and Dravid has hailed the leadership skills of the 34-year-old.
“There’s nothing new about Rohit being captain. For as long as I can remember, he’s been Mumbai Indians’ captain, and his stats are there for everybody to see,” Dravid reflected.
“He has a great understanding of the game and tactically he’s really, really good, and that’s why he’s been able to achieve the kind of things that he has as a leader.”
However, the hosts will be without several key players for the three-match series, including the quartet of Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja, who have been rested amid their gruelling recent schedules.
Despite forming an integral part of India’s T20 side over recent years, all-rounder Hardik Pandya has been omitted, with the uncapped trio of Venkatesh Iyer, Harshal Patel and Avesh Khan earning call-ups.
Ruturaj Gaikwad – the top run-scorer in the 2021 IPL – has been rewarded with a recall following his prolific form for Chennai Super Kings, while Yuzvendra Chahal also returns to the fold, having been a surprise exclusion from the T20 World Cup squad.
Shreyas Iyer and Axar Patel are also included in the 16-man squad following their absence in the UAE, while Rohit’s opening partner KL Rahul has been named vice-captain, with Rishabh Pant and Ravichandran Ashwin also set to feature.
India recorded a stunning 5-0 series sweep in the last bilateral T20I series between the sides in February 2020, although New Zealand have enjoyed the recent monopoly across multiple formats.
The Kiwis came out on top when the sides met in the inaugural World Test Championship final in June, and they effectively ended India’s T20 World Cup hopes in Dubai last month, closing out an emphatic eight-wicket success in the Super 12s stage.
Nevertheless, the Black Caps will be smarting from their defeat to Australia in Sunday’s T20 World Cup showpiece – their third defeat in a limited-overs final since 2015.
New Zealand’s talismanic captain Kane Williamson will miss the three-match series, instead opting to focus on the Test Series which gets underway in Kanpur on November 25.
Williamson was New Zealand’s leading run-scorer at the T20 World Cup, amassing 216 runs in his seven matches, including a sensational 85 from just 48 balls in the final.
Tim Southee will deputise in Williamson’s absence, and the experienced seamer concedes his team-mates have not had the opportunity to reflect on being denied a maiden T20 crown.
“It’s busy and we haven’t really had a chance to stop and think after the disappointment in the way things finished there [in Dubai],” Southee admitted.
“We have to shift our focus to this series and then obviously for the Test series. To represent your country is a great honour so that gets me up and going.”
Lockie Ferguson was ruled out of the T20 World Cup due to a calf strain, but the fast bowler is expected to be fit for the three-match series, where he’ll join the formidable pace quartet of Southee, Trent Boult, Adam Milne and Kyle Jamieson.
Martin Guptill and Daryl Mitchell both scored 208 runs from their seven innings in the UAE, and they’re expected to continue their partnership at the top of the order against a depleted Indian attack.
However, New Zealand will be without Devon Conway, who remains sidelined after sustaining a broken hand during the Black Caps’ semi-final victory over England.
India squad: Rohit Sharma (capt), KL Rahul, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Venkatesh Iyer, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Avesh Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Harshal Patel, Mohammad Siraj.
New Zealand squad: Tim Southee (capt), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Kyle Jamieson, Adam Milne, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert (wk), Ish Sodhi.