Who will replace Virat Kohli in T20I opener against Afghanistan at Mohali? | Cricket

India will have to possibly wait till Sunday to know of their World Cup T20 template, woven around the two stalwarts, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. While there has been buzz and enthusiasm amongst the cricket fans ever since the Indian team for the three-match series against Afghanistan was announced.

Indian captain Rohit Sharma along with Rahul Dravid during the practice session at PCA Stadium in Mohali

But this will be a dampener: Kohli will miss Thursday’s first game in Mohali owing to personal reasons. It’s quite evident that Sharma and Kohli will again be the key players for India in the World Cup in June. Virat has generally batted at No.3 in T20Is but a thought was floated where people suggested the two could actually open the batting. Whether that will be on the main menu or not will only be known once Kohli is available for the second game in Indore on Sunday.

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So, Rohit, who landed in Chandigarh on Wednesday evening, will open with Yashasvi Jaiswal. That means the local lad, Shubman Gill, who set the IPL on fire last year, will either sit out or bat at No.3.

Sharing his thoughts, head coach Rahul Dravid said, “We have left-handers in the team. We can have a look at the batting combination when the final squad is declared for the T20 World Cup. It is about the way to tackle different bowlers and not about left-hand or right-hand batting. Rohit and Virat bring skill and quality to the team. They are in fine form. Tilak and Jaiswal bring different dimensions to the team as well.”

Afghanistan, led by Ibrahim Zadran gave a mind-blowing performance in the ODI World Cup beating Pakistan, Sri Lanka and England. Even though they will be playing without the services of spin wizard Rashid Khan as he is still recovering after back surgery, Afghanistan will be heavily dependent on their world-class spinners, including Noor Ahmad and Mujeeb Ur Rahman. Mohammed Nabi will be available for selection.

“Playing against India on their home soil is difficult, but we are here to win, show our skills. We have lots of good players in T20 and we are good in this format, I am sure we will perform well,” said Afghanistan captain Zadran, who is an opener.

With cold conditions prevailing in the region, dew, and possibly fog, will also come into play when the teams start the game at 7pm.

The games will help Afghanistan finetune preparations for the T20 World Cup in the West Indies and the U.S. Zadran feels the team must improve in the batting department. “We have one of the best spinners in the world, we have fast bowlers as well, but our aim is to improve batting skills,” stressed the 22-year-old.

Dravid said: “Challenges will be there for both the teams. Dew might start early due to winter, so both the teams will have to face this. We know they have quality spinners and our batsmen will have to dominate them.” While saying that Sharma and Jaiswal will be the openers in the series, he asserted nothing was final. “Nothing is closed. We are really happy with what Jaiswal has done as an opener for us, and he gives us a left-right combination as well at the top.”

The return of Sharma and Kohli has happened almost after 15 months, and in Sharma’s absence, Hardik Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav had been leading the India T20 team. Both are injured and unavailable for selection. The three-match series against Afghanistan will not only provide Sharma and Kohli the feel of a T20 international, but also give Dravid the chance to take a closer look at wicket-keeper batter Jitesh Sharma, Rinku Singh, Mukesh Kumar and Tilak Verma. Bengaluru will host the third T20I on January 17.

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