Team India are yet to recover from the hangover of a semi-final defeat at the 2022 T20 World Cup, but they will take on New Zealand in a three-match T20I series. The first game will be played in Wellington on Friday, November 18.
Several key players have been understandably rested for the assignment. Big names like Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli won't turn out for the Men in Blue against the Kiwis. India's second-string squad for the series contained a few debatable selections, though.
India's squad for the New Zealand T20I series: Hardik Pandya (c), Rishabh Pant (vc & wk), Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson (wk), Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, Mohammed Siraj, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umran Malik
Here are three players who were surprise picks in India's squad for the New Zealand T20I series.
#3 Shubman Gill
Shubman Gill hasn't made his T20I debut yet, and understandably so. With India having a plethora of opening options over the last few years, the youngster hasn't been able to break the door down.
Gill is closer than ever to nailing down a spot in the ODI side, but his T20 credentials are still somewhat questionable. Yes, he's bound to become a great white-ball batter and is the future of Indian cricket, but as of now, does he have the necessary shot-making ability?
The opener has had a strike rate below 120 in two of his last three Indian Premier League seasons. While Gill took major strides during the 2022 season, notching up 483 runs at an average of 34.5 and a strike rate of 132.33, India had more exciting options at their disposal.
Nevertheless, Gill is on his way up, and you can't fault the selectors too much for placing their faith in him. As a world-class talent, the 23-year-old should be backed to come good across formats.
#2 Bhuvneshwar Kumar
When will India move past Bhuvneshwar Kumar? The swing bowler seems to find a new lease of life each time the door threatens to shut on him, and while his performances over the last few months have been decent for the most part, he doesn't have enough in his legs to be around for the 2024 T20 World Cup.
Bhuvneshwar had a nightmare outing in the 2022 T20 World Cup semi-final, spraying the ball all over the place in an opening spell that set the tone for England's breezy run-chase. As a bowler who doesn't offer much at the death and can't contribute runs regularly either, the veteran's days in international cricket are numbered.
India simply must move towards a fresher side over the next two years, and sticking with Bhuvneshwar doesn't seem like the best course of action.
#1 Kuldeep Yadav
Kuldeep Yadav has played only five T20Is since the start of 2020, and while his returns have been impressive, he hasn't been able to nail down a permanent place in the side. The spinner's pace variations and consistency have often been found lacking.
Kuldeep took a massive step towards reviving his T20I career with a productive IPL 2022 campaign for the Delhi Capitals, earning a recall to the national side. He picked up three wickets against the West Indies in his only outing of the series and did well in 50-over assignments against New Zealand 'A' and South Africa.
However, Kuldeep is not a finished product in T20s and can be expensive on his day. Ravi Bishnoi, who was surprisingly excluded from the squad, would've been a much better option.
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