Indian cricket team looks for a fresh start under Dravid and Rohit. Photograph:( AFP )
Team India will look to start their preparations for next year's T20 World Cup on the right note when they take on New Zealand in the first T20I at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Wednesday.
After a rude reality check in the T20 World Cup, India will aim to press the reset button for the 2022 edition under new captain Rohit Sharma and an illustrious head coach in Rahul Dravid, starting with the three-match series against New Zealand beginning here on Wednesday.
The duo in the next 11 months will underline the 'Men In Blue''s template and philosophy in the shortest format after it became clear that some rejigging will be needed as a part of course correction.
The disappointment in the UAE edition has forced India to look beyond Hardik Pandya, who for long has not been able to bring his all-round skills to the table.
Star IPL performer Venkatesh Iyer has been brought in as Hardik's replacement and the three games is likely to give an indication if he can be groomed for the much needed fast bowling all-rounder's slot.
India can also do with more power hitters in the batting department and Venkatesh, who played for KKR this IPL, has shown his ability to hit long and big.
The other IPL performers who have been picked in the squad are Ruturaj Gaikwad, Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan and Yuzvendra Chahal, who makes a comeback after controversially being left out of the World Cup squad.
With Jasprit Bumah rested for the series, India will be looking to find another pacer, who can consistently clock 140kmph and above. As it was seen in the UAE, the extra pace always comes in handy, bringing Avesh and Mohammad Siraj into the picture.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who was not at his best in the UAE, has been given another opportunity to find his A game.
The think tank comprising skipper Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid will also assess a player's utility keeping the Australian conditions in the mind as the country hosts the World Cup in less than 12 months time.
There are five shortest format openers in the side and slotting them in various middle-order position will be a challenge.
Rohit and vice-captain K L Rahul are expected to open on Wednesday but India might be tempted to experiment in the presence of more options like Ishan Kishan and Gaikwad. In fact, even Venkatesh got all his runs opening for KKR but he is set to bat in the middle-order.
Suryakumar Yadav could not find his rhythm during the World Cup but he is one player India would be looking to groom at number four, especially for the true pitches in Australia.
In the absence of rested Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel can fill the spin bowling all-rounder slot while R Ashwin is expected to retain his place in the playing eleven after an impressive white-ball comeback in the UAE.
India had only five bowlers to choose from for most part of the World Cup while other top teams had up to seven options. Therefore, one might see one of the specialist batters rolling his arm over.
Their opponents New Zealand, who effectively knocked India out of the World Cup, have reached Jaipur on a chartered flight from Dubai with little time to reflect on their loss to Australia in the title clash.
Head coach Gary Stead has already spoken about how the challenges his team faces, having to regroup so quickly after a draining event like the World Cup.
Skipper Kane Williamson has been given rest for the T20s so that he is fresh for the following Test series. Seasoned pacer Tim Southee will lead the team in his absence.
However with Trent Boult for company and dangerous Daryl Mitchell in the top-order, New Zealand will be more than a handful in this series.
New Zealand could give opportunities to players who did not have much to do in the UAE including Kyle Jamieson who only played the warm-up games.
One of the interesting match-ups will be skipper Rohit against Ish Sodhi as the India captain has had problem against wrist spinners in the past.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan, Venkatesh Iyer, Yuzvendra Chahal, R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Avesh Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Harshal Patel, Mohammad Siraj.
New Zealand: Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Kyle Jamieson, Adam Milne, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee (captain).