With KL Rahul unavailable for the five-match T20I series against South Africa, India could give Ruturaj Gaikwad a go at the top of the order for the first match at least, if not for the entire series. Rahul, who was set to captain India in the absence of Rohit Sharma, was ruled out due to an unspecified injury and Rishabh Pant is set to make his captaincy debut.
Also read: ‘Hard to accept…’: KL Rahul tweets after being ruled out of South Africa T20Is, shares message for new captain Pant
Hardik Pandya, meanwhile, has been named Pant’s vice-captain. India had played Venkatesh Iyer in the middle order in their previous series series against Sri Lanka and that seems to be the role that they have intended for him going forward. It hence seems unlikely that they will play Venkatesh at the top order, where he tends to play in the IPL for Kolkata Knight Rider, with a regular opener like Gaikwad still available.
Wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav will also miss the five-match series after sustaining a hand injury. Dinesh Karthik, meanwhile, is set to find a place in the team as a pure batter in the lower middle order.
Umran Malik, despite the hype around him, may have to wait for his debut with the likes of Harshal Patel and Avesh Khan in the squad. Head coach Rahul Dravid called the uncapped talent exciting but also hinted that the fans might not see Malik feature in any of the T20Is.
“It is brilliant in terms of watching Umran in the nets, you can see that he has got that pace. Obviously, he is learning. He is a young boy and he is getting better, improving. The more he is able to play, the better he is going to get. From our, perspective, very happy to have someone like him in the mix. We have to see how much playing time we can give him, we need to be realistic, we have a large squad, it is not possible to give everyone playing XI time,” said Dravid.
India Predicted XI for 1st T20I:
Openers: Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan
Middle order: Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (captain/wicketkeeper), Hardik Pandya
Power-hitters: Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik
Spinners: Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal
Fast bowlers: Harshal Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Avesh Khan