India again firm favourites, T20 series to provide ideal platform to youngsters

Tarouba (Trinidad): Less than 48 hours after their ODI series triumph, India will switch to T20 mode, again as overwhelming favourites against the West Indies in a five-match rubber starting here from Thursday, which will provide an ideal platform to the youngsters to express themselves.

In the preceding three-match 50-over rubber that had some context in the year of the ODI World Cup, India emerged victorious 2-1 after a shock defeat in the second match and the fancied visitors will have their tails up in the T20 series, too.

Led by dynamic all-rounder Hardik Pandya, India will look to give opportunities to hungry guys such as Yashasvi Jaiswal, Tilak Varma and Mukesh Kumar in these five matches beginning with the opener at the Brian Lara Stadium.

It was their stellar performances in the Indian Premier League that have earned the likes of Varma and Jaiswal a maiden call-up to India’s T20I squad and they will certainly look to make the most of it.

On the other hand, the selectors, in the first meeting with Ajit Agarkar as their chairman, brought back Sanju Samson, and the seasoned swashbuckler batter-cum keeper will strive to make the opportunity count and see where he stands as far his place in the ODI World Cup squad is concerned.

Given the West Indies’ terminal decline across formats in recent times, the Indians are expected to call the shots.

Ravi Bishnoi is also back in the squad with Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, who will be the spin options alongside Axar Patel.

With Hardik and his deputy for the series — the last two matches of which will be held in Florida — Suryakumar Yadav occupying two slots in the middle-order, and the likes of Ishan Kishan, Shubman Gill and Jaiswal at the top, it makes for an intimidating batting line-up and the Indians are expected to rake up big totals if the coin lands in their favour at the toss.

Besides newcomer Mukesh, whose three-wicket burst rocked the West Indies top-order in the final ODI here on Tuesday, India will have the trio of Arshdeep Singh, Umran Malik and Avesh Khan shouldering the pace bowling responsibility.

With the T20 World Cup scheduled next year, these men will be motivated to perform and cement their places in the team.

As far as the West Indies are concerned, they are coming into the rubber on the back of defeats in the Test and ODI series and will also not find it easy in the slam-bang format, their strongest suit.

Wicketkeeper-batter Shai Hope and fast bowler Oshane Thomas have been recalled to strengthen the 15-member West Indies team led by Rovman Powell.

The 29-year-old Hope, the West Indies captain in the three-match ODI series, last played a T20I in February last year in Kolkata during the tour of India.

The 26-year-old Thomas, on the other hand, is coming back after playing his last T20I in Karachi in December 2021.

Kyle Mayers has been named vice-captain of the squad that is aiming for next year’s T20 World Cup.

After the opener, the teams will move to the Guyana National Stadium for the second and third fixtures on August 6 and 8.

The series will conclude with the matches at the Broward County Stadium, Lauderhill, Florida on August 12 and 13.

Teams (from): India: Ishan Kishan (wk), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Tilak Varma, Suryakumar Yadav (vc), Sanju Samson (wk), Hardik Pandya (c), Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh, Umran Malik, Avesh Khan, Mukesh Kumar.

West Indies: Rovman Powell (captain), Kyle Mayers (vice-captain), Johnson Charles, Roston Chase, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Brandon King, Obed McCoy, Nicholas Pooran, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith, Oshane Thomas.

Match starts at 2000 hours IST.