Dashing opener Prithvi Shaw might have made his much-awaited return in the Indian T20I set-up but skipper Hardik Pandya has made it clear that it will be Shubman Gill who will be opening the innings in the first T20I against New Zealand in Ranchi on Friday (January 27).
Gill has been in unbelievable form in the 50-over format. The young opener averages 73.76 in ODI and smashed scores of 208, 40* and 112 in the three ODIs against New Zealand. However, the right-hander has often been criticised for his strike rate in the shortest format of the game, while Shaw is someone who has a reputation of being an intent merchant and doesn’t mind playing his shots from the word go.
Gill also featured in the three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka and Pandya said India would stick with him, at least for now. "Shubman has done well and will start the series. The way he is batting and was already in the team," said Hardik ahead of the first T20I.
Meanwhile, Pandya bowled with the new ball in the T20Is against Sri Lanka and did the same in the third ODI against New Zealand in Indore with Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj being rested from the game. The ace allrounder can now swing the ball both ways and said he enjoys bowling with the new ball.
"I have always enjoyed bowling with the new ball. Since quite a number of years whenever I bowl in the nets, I pick the new ball. I am used to the old ball so that I don't feel the need to practice with the old ball as much. It has helped in match situations.
"With our two main bowlers rested in the last game, I had to be ready. But (it) has never been about pressure, half of the times pressure is gone if you prepare well.”
The first T20I is in Ranchi, the birthplace of India’s most successful white-ball captain, MS Dhoni. And, the 41-year-old joined the Indian set-up during their training session on Thursday.
"Mahi bhai is here which is good as we get to meet him. We can get out of the hotel also (to meet him). Otherwise, the way we have played in the last one month, it has just been hotel to hotel.
"And when we meet we try to talk about life rather than the game. When we played together I learnt a lot from him. I have squeezed a lot out of him (knowledge)... there is not much left."
Talking about the inclusion of dynamic wicketkeeper-batter Jitesh Sharma, Pandya said: Jitesh has been rewarded for his performances. Unfortunately, Sanju Samson got injured and Jitesh got the opportunity.
"We will try to win obviously. New Zealand is a good team both in T20Is and ODIs. They always challenge you. We will have to be at their best to beat them."