India captain Hardik Pandya (left) and head coach VVS Laxman address the team on the eve of the first T20I against Ireland. Image Credit: Twitter / BCCI

Dublin: India will be under the leadership of Hardik Pandya tomorrow in the first of two T20Is against Ireland before heading to England for a limited over series.

The squad touring Ireland is missing some star names such as Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and Jasprit Bumrah but it will be a good chance to test the youngsters. They will get an opportunity to show that they deserve to play against England.

Dinesh Karthik will get another opportunity to prove why he deserves to be in India’s T20 World Cup squad. Since he will be batting in similar conditions as England, the wicket-keeper batter will also enhance his chances of getting into the starting lineup as a first-choice keeper even if Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul are available for selection.

Third pacer

Bhuvneshwar Kumar - appointed vice-captain - can secure his position as the third pacer. When Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami play it is hard to see Kumar given a chance what with Harshal Patel the choice as the third pacer not to mention with Pandya available to bowl as well.

Facing batter Suryakumar Yadav as well as senior pacer Kumar is something which Ireland’s leg-spin all-rounder Gareth Delany is very eager to do. .

Delany, who has played 12 ODIs and 37 T20Is for Ireland, is hoping to put up a good show against Suryakumar as well as Bhuvneshwar.

“It’d be really cool to bowl to Suryakumar Yadav. He’s an incredibly talented batter who can play 360 degrees and mix it up between power and finesse. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is also one of the world’s best new-ball bowlers in T20 and has a very low economy rate for T20 cricket, so it would be a good challenge to go against someone of his calibre,” said Delany.

After the two T20Is against India, Ireland are scheduled to host New Zealand for three ODIs and as many T20Is, followed by two T20Is against South Africa before hosting Afghanistan for a five-match T20I series. But it is the chance to impress and showcase his skills against India which has Delany’s attention right now.

“It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity to go against the world’s best as we start off our international summer of fixtures. It’ll be a very stiff challenge against some of the best players in this format but it’s very exciting all the same. Hopefully, we’ll be able to put in two strong performances.”

India squad for Ireland tour:

Hardik Pandya (c), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (vc), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Sanju Samson, Rahul Tripathi, Deepak Hooda, Venkatesh Iyer, Axar Patel, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel, Umran Malik, Arshdeep Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravi Bishnoi.

Ireland are on the path of rebooting their T20 style of play after being unable to qualify for Super 12 stage of the 2021 Men’s T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates last year. Not going for the Super 12 stage after a shock defeat from debutants Namibia was something Delany admits was hard to take.

“Not qualifying for the Super 12 stage was an incredibly disappointing experience for us as a squad. We’ve a lot of young guys in our squad at the moment so that experience will stand to us and the fixtures that we have this summer will hopefully benefit us going forward.”

With Ireland having a busy T20I schedule and new head coach Heinrich Malan joining in, Delany is optimistic about the series against India being their starting point to the first round of Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia later in the year, where they are placed alongside Scotland, two-time champions West Indies and yet to be known global Qualifier B winner.

Show progress

“If we can play to our best, then I’d be pretty confident that we’ll show progress, but it’ll be a very difficult and pressurising few games. We’ve identified areas that we can improve on from that last T20 World Cup to hopefully go one step further later this year in Australia.”

“We’ve a packed summer schedule against some of the best T20 sides in the world so it’ll be a good chance to find out where we are as a team and identify areas we need to work on to be as best prepared for that first game in Australia as possible.”