Dubai: The New Year promises to usher in a testing time for Virat Kohli’s men in the form of two series — first against a full strength Australia at home and then New Zealand at the latter’s backyard.
The first One Day International (ODI) of the three-match series commences on Tuesday against an in-form Australian team in Mumbai.
The Indian selectors also announced the T20 squad for the five match series starting from January 24 against New Zealand on Sunday. This series will be followed by three ODIs and two Tests in New Zealand.
Indian team has been riding high after consecutive series wins against below-par West Indies and Sri Lankan teams at home.
They will face the first stiff challenge of the year starting with the series against Australia.
Last year, Australia had come from behind to win the five-match ODI series 3-2 and hence Indian skipper Virat Kohli remarked that unless his team plays hard, it will be tough to beat the yellow shirts.
“They (Australia) are a stronger side than the one that came to India last time, but they still won the series. In the series before that, they played a full strength side but we won the series. You can have the most experienced and the most skilled players in your squad but if you don’t play well as a team in this series, you won’t win.”
Australians are high in confidence after their splendid performance at home where they whitewashed Pakistan and New Zealand in the Tests. The fact that Kohli has decided to play all three in-form players such as Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and K.L Rahul reveals that he wants the best team to take on the Australian challenge. Though former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting has predicted a 2-1 win for his team, it is very clear that the series will be closely fought.
Australia is expecting a lot from the in-form Marnus Labuschagne, who is also a fine player of spin. This series will also put to test the abilities of spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja and also whether Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Sami can strike consistently.
The Indian T20 team for New Zealand too has been picked by keeping in mind the that they would need the best in-form players to be there. It was surprising to find the selectors dropping wicketkeeper batsman Sanju Samson, who was given just once chance during the Pune T20 against Sri Lanka after waiting for nearly four years. Rishabh Pant has got a call-up as the lone wicketkeeper as he is being shaped as the wicketkeeper for the ICC T20 World Cup during October-November in Australia in case Mahendra Singh Dhoni announces his retirement.
India would have liked to have star all-rounder Hardik Pandya in the side in New Zealand but his failing the mandatory fitness test in Mumbai on Saturday is a setback. This gives seamer Shardul Thakur, a fine hitter of the ball, to prove his mettle.
The New Zealand series will also be a testing time for spinners Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Washington Sundar to prove their worth. A good show in the series can also ensure that batsmen like Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, seamer Navdeep Saini and all-rounder Shivam Dube cement their places in the Indian squad.
India T20I squad for New Zealand: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma (vc), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Shivam Dube, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur, Manish Pandey, Washington Sundar, Mohammad Shami.