Auckland: Preparations for the World Cup on top of their agenda, India will take on an injury-hit New Zealand in a rare five-match T20 International series starting on Friday during which seam-friendly wickets would be a major challenge for the visitors.
Unlike most overseas tours, this will be a quick start for the Indian team. In a tight season, the first T20 comes only five days after their last ODI against Australia at home.
The team arrived in Auckland on Tuesday and chose to rest on Wednesday. Thursday was when they hit the nets ahead of the tour-opening game.
On the plus side, this hectic schedule helps the team management maintain consistency in team selection as they continue experimenting across the available squad in a World Cup year. The T20 showpiece is scheduled to be held in Australia in October this year.
Despite the recent good record in the shortest format, there is a downbeat mood in the hosts’ dressing room thanks to the 3-0 shellacking received in Australia over the past month. It hasn’t helped matters that the disappointing loss to their trans-Tasman rivals has raised questions about Kane Williamson’s future as captain.
Kohli has confirmed that KL Rahul will keep wickets and this heats up the competition between Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson for the middle-order spot.
The Kiwis, on the other hand, would be looking to bounce back after a 0-3 hammering at the hands of Australia in Tests.
India start off as slight favourites as they look to continue their winning juggernaut.
India squad: Rohit Sharma, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli(c), Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah Navdeep Saini, Washington Sundar
New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (capt), Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Scott Kuggeleijn, Colin Munro, Colin de Grandhomme, Tom Bruce, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert (wk), Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee.
Time: 12:20 PM IST