Hardik Pandya's last international game was the Twenty20 International against South Africa and he could play for India in the third Twenty International against New Zealand. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
After 11 years, India will be embarking on a full tour of New Zealand. Virat Kohli's side will play five Twenty20 Internationals, three ODIs and two Tests starting from January 24 and ending on March 3. The five Twenty20 Internationals will be an important build-up for the upcoming World T20 which will be played in Australia in October 2020 and India will be gunning for a second slice of revenge. In 2014, India were hammered 4-0 in the ODIs and the Test series was won 1-0 by New Zealand. In 2019, India took revenge by beating New Zealand 4-1 in the ODIs but lost the T20I series 1-2. With the selection of the Indian cricket team taking place in Mumbai on Sunday, the side looks more or less settled but there could be some major additions to the team.
The major inclusion in the side could be Hardik Pandya, who has been sidelined ever since the South Africa series with a back stress fracture. Pandya could be a vital addition in the limited-overs side as he could offer depth and options to Virat Kohli with both bat and ball. In addition to Pandya, the selectors might be tempted to pick either a 16-man squad or 17-man squad looking at how the Indian bench strength performed during the series against West Indies, South Africa, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Shivam Dube was impressive in the series against West Indies and he could be the back-up all-rounder in case Pandya is rested.
With Mohammed Shami rested for Sri Lanka, he could automatically slot in and be the third seamer in the side for the T20Is and ODIs, which could unluckily mean Shardul Thakur is on the benches.
A Settled Squad
With some members of the Indian cricket team already embarking to New Zealand for the A tour, it will be interesting to see whether the selectors tinker with the side and make wholesome changes or they keep the core of the side settled.
Hardik Pandya's return will boost Virat Kohli's team composition and give the side depth and options. (Image credit: Getty Images)
While the T20 squad that played against Sri Lanka in the just-concluded series all but picks itself, Pandya, who is already in New Zealand with the A team, is expected to be included once he proves his fitness in the first couple of List A games against New Zealand, apart from two warm-up one dayers. With India A's three List A games only ending on January 26, Hardik might be included by the time the January 29 third T20 International comes calling.
"About Hardik, it's only about checking out if he is fully fit for international cricket or not. He is very integral to India's World T20 plans," a senior BCCI official, privy to selection matters, told PTI on the condition of anonymity. It will be interesting to note if the ODI team is an extension of the T20 squad. The weakest link in the ODI team is Kedar Jadhav, who has managed to hold onto his 50 over slot amid pressure to replace him. In New Zealand, Jadhav's technical frailties could be exposed and his lack of overs in recent times makes him a case for exclusion.
Probable T20I Squad
Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Sanju Samson, Manish Pandey, Shivam Dube, Hardik Pandya, Suryakumar Yadav
Probable ODI squad
Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini, Manish Pandey, Shubman Gill, Shardul Thakur
Probable Test squad
Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul