Three debuts in captain Shubman Gill’s Team India as World champions begin life after Rohit, Kohli against Zimbabwe

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India’s likely XI for 1st T20I vs Zimbabwe: Three debutants likely in Shubman Gill’s first match as India captain.

Exactly a week after the historical events at the Kensington Oval in Barbados ended their 13-year-long wait for a World Cup title, Team India will embark on a new journey in totally different circumstances some 10 and a half thousand kilometres away at the Harare Sports Club in Zimbabwe. And no, the distance between the two places is not the only eyebrow-raising factor. The T20 World Champions will begin life without captain Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and ace all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja. The dynamic trio, a regular feature in India’s T20I sides for a decade and a half, announced their retirement after India won the World Cup, beating South Africa in the final.

World’s No. 1 all-rounder Hardik Pandya, India’s No. 1 batter Suryakumar Yadav and No. 1 fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah are all gaining a well-earned rest.

A Zimbabwe tour for the last few years have been a breeding ground for India’s IPL stars to showcase their talent at the international level. This will be no different but the added incentive is to probably cement a place in India’s T20I side in place of Rohit, Kohli and Jadeja.

Shubman Gill is in the front line of that. He will lead India for the first time, with senior players rested after the joyous celebrations of winning the T20 World Cup. The 24-year-old batter, who led the Gujarat Titans in the Indian Premier League, returns to India’s T20 eleven along with middle-order bat Rinku Singh. The duo had missed out on the World Cup but travelled to the West Indies and the United States as reserve players.

India’s young squad consists of many budding superstars who have had an enriching experience in the IPL, including Abhishek Sharma, Riyan Parag and Tushar Deshpande.

Abhishek lit up the IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad, scoring 484 runs in 16 matches at strike-rate 204.22, while Parag scored 573 runs for Rajasthan Royals. Both are expected to start the series and gain their T20 debuts.

Gill already confirmed Abhishek as his opening partner for the first T20I. Among others expected to gain valuable T20 opportunities are prolific batter Ruturaj Gaikwad (skipper of Chennai Super Kings), Rajasthan Royals batter Riyan Parag, as also spin all-rounder Washington Sundar.

Keeper-batter Sanju Samson and opener Yashasvi Jaiswal were the only ones from the World Cup squad to be picked for this series. Batting all-rounder Shivam Dube was later included in place of 21-year-old all-rounder Nitish Reddy as the latter picked up an injury.

The trio, however, will not be available for the first two matches as the Indian team left Barbados late owing to a hurricane and only arrived in India on Thursday, sparking huge celebrations across the country. Instead, batters Sai Sudharsan and Jitesh Sharma as well as pacer Harshit Rana were added to India’s squad for the first two T20s.

In the absence of Samson, the keeper’s spot is likely to go to Dhruv Jurel, who will make his debut in this format. Rinku Singh and Khaleel Ahmed will also be in the limelight. The duo were travelling reserves in the World Cup.

India’s likely XI for 1st T20I vs Zimbabwe
Openers: Shubman Gill, Abhishek Sharma

Top and middle-order: Ruturaj Gaikwad, Riyan Parag, Rinku Singh

Wicketkeeper: Dhruv Jurel

All-rounder: Washington Sundar

Fast bowlers: Avesh Khan, Khaleel Ahmed, Mukesh Kumar

Spinner: Ravi Bishnoi

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