Stalwarts Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli in focus in first ever India-Afghanistan white-ball series

Stalwarts Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli in focus in first ever India-Afghanistan white-ball series

NEW DELHI: Making a return to the shortest format after a gap of 14 months, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli will be in spotlight as India take on a dangerous Afghanistan in the first T20I of the first ever white-ball series between the two sides in Mohali on Thursday.
Both Rohit and Kohli last featured in an India T20 international in the T20 World Cup semi-final game against England and were included for the Afghanistan series on Sunday.
The three T20I matches will be India’s last international assignment ahead of the upcoming cricketing extravaganza, T20 World Cup 2024, in the Americas in June.
The series is expected to give more clarity on where the team stands before the ICC event however the ‘final 15’ will be picked on the basis of IPL performances, which precedes the World Cup.
Rohit and Kohli, now that they are back in the T20 setup, are a certainty in that squad but the accomplished duo would first like to get the most out of the games against Afghanistan.
The two India greats are also among the biggest crowd-pullers and their presence on the field would be another reason for the Mohali crowd to brave the prevailing cold wave.
Rohit, who will also captain the side, will be expected to carry on with his ultra aggressive approach in the powerplay like he showed in the ODI World Cup. Kohli, on the other hand, will look to up his strike rate in the middle overs as the modern game doesn’t have room for anchors anymore.
The team, having returned from South Africa last week, will only assemble by Wednesday evening for the series-opener on Thursday evening.
Though the likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal and Tilak Varma remain in the squad after performing top-order duties in in the drawn series against South Africa, Shubman Gill is expected to open the innings alongside Rohit.
Across formats, Gill did not have the easiest of times in the Rainbow nation and will be looking to pile on the runs against Afghanistan with the fringe openers breathing down his neck.
In his toughest test yet in a blossoming T20 career, Rinku Singh proved his worth in the South African conditions and will be a key player for India in the middle-order, especially in the absence of the injured duo of Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya.
With Ishan Kishan interestingly left out, Jitesh Sharma and Sanju Samson are the two wicket-keeping options for the squad.
Having donned the gloves in the previous two series, Jitesh is expected to start ahead of Samson, who finds himself back in the fold after the short series in Ireland last August.
Shivam Dube too is back and can feature in the eleven as a pace bowling all-rounder while three specialist pace options are Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan and Mukesh Kumar.
Kuldeep Yadav will lead the spin attack and other options to choose from are Ravi Bishnoi, Axar Patel and Washington Sundar.
India would be expected to win comfortably in their own conditions but Afghanistan will give them a run for their money.
Having recently exceeded all expectations in their giant-killing run during the ODI World Cup in India, Afghanistan will be high on confidence in a format that suits them the most.
Star spinner Rashid Khan, who underwent a back surgery in November, is part of the squad in Mohali but might not start the series.
Barring this, the team is at its full strength after the likes Mujeeb Zadran, Naveen-Ul Haq and Fazalhaq Farooqi sorted their contractual issues with the country’s cricket board.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Jitesh Sharma (wk), Sanju Samson (wk), Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Ravi Bishnoi, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan, Mukesh Kumar.
Aghanistan: Ibrahim Zadran (captain), Rahmanullah Gurbaz (WK), Ikram Alikhil (WK), Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Karim Janat, Azmatullah Omarzai, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Fareed Ahmad, Naveen Ul Haq, Noor Ahmad, Mohammad Saleem, Qais Ahmad, Gulbadin Naib and Rashid Khan.
Match starts at 7pm (local time).
(With inputs from PTI)

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