Pune: After an abject performance in the Test series, the Indian team will don the blues for the first of two T20 internationals against England at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium in Pune on Thursday.
Amidst the calls for an overhaul of the team and sacking of MS Dhoni as captain, India would be eyeing the two-match series as a preparation for the high profile India-Pakistan series starting from December 25. England on the other hand, upbeat after their historic Test series win, are taking this two-match series as a platform to test out their young talents which is evident from their T20 squad announced for the series.
India have dropped Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan meaning Ajinkya Rahane will get an international match after a long gap as he will open the innings alongside Gautam Gambhir. Virat Kohli at No.3 is a no brainer but there will be a toss-up between Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Sharma for the No. 4 slot. Manoj Tiwary could have been the third contender for the position but he was ruled out owing to side strain with Ambati Rayadu, called up as the Bengal skipper’s replacement. Suresh Raina will be in his preferred position No.5 with Dhoni and most probably Ravindra Jadeja finishing off the long batting line-up. In the bowling department, an injured L Balaji was replaced by Vinay Kumar - who later strained a calf muscle – forcing the selectors to include medium pacer Abhimanyu Mithun in the squad on Tuesday.
On a low and slow track, Dhoni would most probably go with two spinners – R Ashwin and Piyush Chawla - with Ashok Dinda and Parwinder Awana as the fast bowlers. The inclusion of Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the squad was a surprise but it is highly unlikely that he would be part of the playing XI for the first T20.
For England, rookie fast bowler Stuart Meaker is definitely in line for a T20 debut after Stuart Broad was ruled out of the tour owing to the recurrence of the heel problem. Though Middlesex seamer James Harris has been called up as Broad’s back-up, it is highly unlikely that he would get a game in.
Eoin Morgan will be leading the side in Broad’s absence in a team consisting of horses for courses players. Openers Micheal Lumb and Alex Hales have done reasonably well for England in the T20I format and with no regular wicketkeeper in the squad, the hard-hitting Johny Bairstow will don the gloves behind the stumps. Jos Buttler, Luke Wright and Morgan and are likely to bat at numbers 3, 4 and 5 respectively but the late inclusion of Joe Root, who made an impressive Test debut against India in Nagpur, could be given a go looking at his current form. With Graeme Swann not picked for the T20Is, James Tredwell will lead the spin attack and as per the Indian conditions, Hampshire spinner Danny Briggs is most likely to get a game too. The fast bowling unit will most probably comprise of T20 specialist Jade Dernbach and Meaker with Bresnan missing out.
India: 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh/Rohit Sharma, 5 Suresh Raina, 6MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Piyush Chawla, 10 Ashok Dinda, 11 Parvinder Awana.
England: 1 Michael Lumb, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Jos Buttler, 4 Luke Wright, 5 Eoin Morgan(capt), 6 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 7 Samit Patel, 8 James Tredwell, 9 Danny Briggs, 10 Stuart Meaker, 11 Jade Dernbach.