India tour of New Zealand, Hardik Pandya, Shubhman Gill, Sanju Samson, KL Rahul, 2020 T20 World Cup
Hardik Pandya will India in the T20I series against the West Indies. File photo: @hardikpandya7/Twitter

Pandya likely to be back in limited-overs squad for New Zealand tour

Keeping the focus on the upcoming T20 World Cup, the selectors will zero in on players who can add to the team biggies who ace in white-ball format. 

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In the upcoming tour of New Zealand, India is likely to include all-rounder Hardik Pandya in the limited-overs squad.

The tourists are scheduled to play five T20 Internationals, three ODIs and two Test matches in the tour starting from January 24, the squads for which will be picked on Sunday (January 12).

India will be playing eight white-ball games in New Zealand, and it will be interesting to see if the selectors pick a 16 or 17-member squad, instead of 15, which are unlikely to be significantly tinkered with.

With the India A team’s shadow tour coinciding with the seniors’ visit, it gives the selectors an option to draft players on SOS basis if the need arises.

Keeping the focus of forming a core team for the upcoming T20 World Cup, the selectors will zero in on players who can add to the team biggies who ace in white-ball format.

Also read: India beat Sri Lanka by 78 runs to clinch series 2-0

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, returning from a back surgery, 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.

Also read: Lyon’s five-wicket spell sets Australia for series clean-sweep over Kiwis

In New Zealand, Jadhav’s technical frailties could be exposed and his lack of overs in recent times makes him a case for exclusion.

In case the Indian team looks for technical solidity, Ajinkya Rahane could make a comeback, but if the team management is thinking in terms of treating 50 over games as an extension of T20 series, Mumbai player Suryakumar Yadav’s explosive power hitting at No. 5 or 6 could be an option. Both Surya and Sanju Samson are in the A squad.

The Test squad wears a very settled look with the only contention being the third opener’s slot.

Picked as a reserve for the home series, the young Shubman Gill deserves to be the third opener, but K L Rahul’s current form and experience in Test cricket could also be considered.

The selectors will also deliberate on if a third spinner (Kuldeep Yadav) is needed for the two-match Test series instead of a fifth pacer (Navdeep Saini) to accompany Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, and Ishant Sharma.

The rest automatically pick themselves in case there are no fitness issues.

(With inputs from agencies)

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