Cricket

India Selectors have their task cut out for New Zealand series

Impact player: Hardik Pandya should get the nod, but will have to prove his fitness in the two warm-up games for India-A.

Impact player: Hardik Pandya should get the nod, but will have to prove his fitness in the two warm-up games for India-A.  

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Hardik likely to be back; close race on for wicketkeeper and spinners’ slots

Hardik Pandya is likely to return to India’s squad after a four-month injury hiatus as the national selection panel, headed by M.S.K. Prasad, will announce on Sunday the squad for the five T20Is, three ODIs and two Tests to be played in New Zealand from January 24.

The allrounder, having recovered from a back surgery, is in New Zealand, along with the India-A squad for a shadow tour. Pandya is part of the India-A limited-over squad for the series that concludes on January 26.

However, if he proves his fitness in the two warm-up games for India-A, on January 17 and 19, he may be asked to join the India camp for the series-opener.

Pandya’s inclusion will not hamper Shivam Dube’s chances in the T20 squad, since the Mumbai allrounder has fared reasonably in his limited opportunities. Pandya is thus set to replace one of the four spinners who were part of the squad for India’s series against Sri Lanka, which concluded on Friday.

Besides Pandya, white-ball vice-captain Rohit Sharma will also be welcomed back into the fold after being rested for the Sri Lanka T20Is. It will be interesting to see if Sanju Samson loses out on the plane or the selectors announce a 16-member squad with an eye on the T20 World Cup in October-November.

Saha-Pant conundrum

The two-Test series, starting on February 21, will be a part of the World Test Championship. It has to be seen if the selectors retain both the wicketkeepers — Wriddhiman Saha and Rishabh Pant. Saha, who had recovered from multiple injuries, was preferred over Pant for the five-Test home stretch.

Even though Saha justified the faith shown in him, some in the selection panel and team management feel that Pant needs to be persisted with away from home with his more-than-handy batting. Prasad and Co. will have its task cut out in finalising the combination.

Besides, the selectors will also have a hard time in picking the back-up opener to Rohit and Mayank Agarwal’s settled combination. K.L. Rahul, having scored heavily across formats, is the front-runner, pipping the likes of Shubman Gill, Priyank Panchal, Abhimanyu Easwaran and Prithvi Shaw.

While the top four pacers select themselves, it is far from given that all the three spinners in India’s squad for the series against Bangladesh — R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav — will board the flight to New Zealand, with the selectors being tempted to draft in an additional pacer.

Jadhav in doubt for ODIs

As for the ODI series sandwiched between the T20Is and the Tests, the selectors will have to decide whether to stick with Kedar Jadhav.

With the Maharashtra batsman unlikely to last till the 2023 World Cup, the selectors may decide to look beyond him and try out either Ajinkya Rahane or Suryakumar Yadav, instead.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 1:52:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/india-selectors-have-their-task-cut-out-for-new-zealand-series/article30545614.ece

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