India vs Ireland, 1st T20I Preview: Focus on Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sanju Samson as India takes over star-hit Ireland

India’s fringe players, including a struggling Ruturaj Gaikwad and Sanju Samson, get another chance to prove themselves before the seniors return, when Hardik Pandya makes his highly anticipated international captaincy debut against star-struck Ireland in a two-match T20 series. Sunday in Malahide. With Rishabh Pant joining the Test side in England, Pandya was named stand-in skipper following his exploits leading Gujarat Titans to IPL 2022 win in their debut season. Pant came in as skipper in their final T20I series at home to South Africa after KL Rahul withdrew due to a groin injury.

India had been forced to hand over the captaincy to too many players in the past 24 months due to injuries, scheduling issues and managing workloads.

Hardik joins that list for the one-off Ireland series and expectations will be running high for him after his exploits with the Gujarat Titans.

NCA chief VVS Laxman, who will replace Indian head coach Rahul Dravid in the short run, with the latter overseeing the England test team’s preparations, is expected to follow the template laid out by his former teammate.

The two matches will give the think tank more clarity on identifying the core group of players for the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year and the team for the three games against strong England next month.

In the home series against South Africa, Dravid showed his steady approach and kept the squad in all five games, despite losing the first two. The Pant-led side bounced back to level 2-2 before being washed out for the fifth game.

With Pant and Shreyas Iyer joining the Test squad in the UK, the series opens a window for the likes of Sanju Samson and Deepak Hooda.

It could well be a make-or-break situation for Samson, who has not been able to settle into the T20 lineup despite being given many opportunities.

Suryakumar Yadav is coming back from a wrist injury and is walking back into the playing eleven and he will probably hit number three or four.

Ishan Kishan made a strong case for the close of the reserve opener with his consistent run against South Africa and he will try to build on that success.

The pressure will be on his opening partner Gaikwad, who in the previous series looked uneasy against high quality fast bowling.

India’s pace sensation Umran Malik and yorker specialist Arshdeep Singh, patiently warming the bench against South Africa, were able to get their big break with conditions expected to favor the fast bowlers.

With all due respect, Ireland is not expected to push India to its limits like South Africa did, giving visitors more freedom to experiment.

For Irish players, the series against mighty India offers them a chance to capture global attention.

Uncapped Stephen Doheny and Conor Olphert have earned a first call-up in the squad led by Andrew Balbirnie, who believes India remains a very strong squad despite the absence of senior players including Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah.

“Nowadays any Indian team you play will be a good team. It kind of shows the depth of Indian cricket that they can put out two teams. We couldn’t do that – there’s no way we could put down a test team and a T20 team at the same time, we just don’t have the numbers for that,” Balbirnie said before the series opener.

Selections

india: Hardik Pandya (Captain), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishan Kishan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sanju Samson, Suryakumar Yadav, Venkatesh Iyer, Deepak Hooda, Rahul Tripathi, Dinesh Karthik, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Ravi Bishnoi, Avesh Khan, Patelmran Singh .

Ireland: Andrew Balbirnie (Captain), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Stephen Doheny, Josh Little, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Conor Olphert, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Craig Young.

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