“We will certainly be opening with Rohit [Sharma] and [Yashasvi] Jaiswal,” said India’s head coach Rahul Dravid ahead of the first T20I against Afghanistan, confirmicng India’s opening combination for the three-match series. Virat Kohli will not be available for the first T20I and Shubman Gill will take the number three slot in his absence.
However, Dravid also mentioned that it is not the locked-in opening combination in the longer vision as yet. “When you have a squad, you have to have that flexibility to do whatever is required if that is in the best interest of the team, and gives us the best chance to succeed. So nothing is closed. But certainly, we're really happy with what Jaiswal has done as an opener for us, and he gives us a left-right combination at the top,” he explained.
Dravid also shed light on the absence of Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer from the squad. Both batters played all three formats for the Men in Blue in 2023. Dravid mentioned that Kishan asked for a break during the Test series in South Africa while Iyer simply fell behind in the pecking order.
"Ishan Kishan was not available for selection," Dravid said. "Ishan requested for a break in South Africa - which we agreed to and recognised - and he has not yet made himself available for selection. I'm sure when he is ready, he will play domestic cricket and make himself available for selection.
"And certainly in Iyer's case, there was absolutely no disciplinary reason for his non-inclusion. There were a lot of batsmen in the team, and Iyer missed out. He didn't play the T20s in South Africa as well, if you notice, and it's unfortunate. He is a fine player, but there are a lot of batsmen, and it is not easy to fit everyone in the squad and the playing XI,” Dravid answered.
The three T20Is against Afghanistan is India’s last series in the format before the T20 World Cup in June. Dravid said the team is relying on this series and the IPL for their preparations for the showpiece event.
“This T20 World Cup is a lot different in the sense that there is not a lot of time to prepare for it. So we have to rely on whatever cricket we have and the IPL. The boys will play T20 cricket here and the IPL. We might not get many opportunities to play together so we have to adapt around that,” he said.
The first T20I will be played in Mohali, the second in Indore and the final fixture will occur in Bengaluru on January 17. This is India’s first home assignment this winter and the northern part of India is undergoing a cold wave with the temperature dropping under 10 degrees in the evening. Asked about the weather conditions, Dravid mentioned that it levels the playing field as the dew will occur earlier to challenge the bowling units of both sides.
“Because of the winter, the dew might start early,” the head coach said. “Sometimes what happens is that the dew comes late and one team suffers in that situation but here, both teams will have to manage. It will be a different challenge for the spinners.
"We know they have got some really good spinners," Dravid said. "So it will be a good challenge for our batsmen. We have discussed about it as well - how to play and dominate their spinners. So it will be a good challenge, and we are looking forward to it."