India vs England 1st T20I Preview: Focus on team combinations and conditions as T20 World Cup build-up begins
While England tearaway Jofra Archer has recovered from his elbow niggle and is available for selection, Hardik Pandya is expected to return to bowling full tilt for India.
Turners or belters for T20Is?
The entire T20I series will be played at Ahmedabad where England do not have happy memories of late. However, that will be offset by the format, in which true and hard surfaces are the norm.
In case, India go in with spinning tracks, of course with not as much turn as was on display in the test matches but significant turn nonetheless, it would be a clear indication of the way they are planning to dish out surfaces for the upcoming T20 World Cup.
At least in the beginning, hard surfaces with good pace and bounce are expected on the square of the world-class stadium in Motera which has 12 strips beside each other.
Rahul or Dhawan?
Apart from the conditions, the other most important thing is the team combination of both sides. With both India and England going into the series with a near-full strength squad, this is a good time to settle on team combinations for the upcoming T20 World Cup in October-November this year.
The big question for India would be to decide Rohit Sharma's opening partner between KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan. Rahul had taken his spot as India's first choice wicketkeeper batsman which allowed Shikhar Dhawan to fit into the team as well. However, now that Rishabh Pant is in a rich vein of form, following mega contributions in India's series victories against Australia and England, there is little doubt that he would take the gloves and bat in the middle order.
This means that Dhawan who has an inferior strike rate and average to that of KL Rahul might have to miss out. With Virat Kohli set to bat at number three, the race is between Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav, with both players adept against spin bowling.
Young wicketkeeper batsman Ishan Kishan who starred for Mumbai Indians in the last edition of the Indian Premier League is also in the squad but is being seen as the backup option for Rishabh Pant. Hardik Pandya will bat at number 6 in the role of the finisher and is expected to be back to bowling full tilt after working awfully hard with bowling coach Bharat Arun through the red-ball leg of the England series.
India to go in with 3 spinners
Given that the T20 World Cup will be played in India, the team is likely to go with two spin bowling all rounders in Washington Sundar and Axar Patel, both of whom also provide a bit with the bat. In the absence of Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar who has recovered from multiple injuries over the last six months and did well for Uttar Pradesh in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, will make the side.
The choice for the second pace option will be between Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar, both of whom have different skill sets. While Chahar is on point with his swing with the new ball and has good variations at the death as well, Shardul Thakur is a handful with his hit-the-deck style of bowling in the middle overs. With Varun Chakravarthy and Rahul Tewatia unavailable after failing the fitness test, Chahal is expected to play as India's leading spinner.
Buttler, Roy, Malan and Bairstow England's top 4
England are set to open with Jos Butler and Jason Roy, with the world number one T20I batsman David Malan at number 3. Jonny Bairstow did a fine job at number four against South Africa and is expected to keep his spot.
With Ben Stokes at 5 and Morgan at 6, the useful all round option of Sam Curran will slot in at number 7.
Ali, Rashid combo likely
Moeen Ali is likely to be preferred over Tom Curran given that he forms a terrific combination with Adil Rashid in spin friendly conditions. Ali and Rashid will be instrumental for England in this series and in the upcoming T20 World Cup
Chris Jordan is a no-brainer for England given his form in T20I cricket over the last couple of years. Jofra Archer has recovered from his elbow niggle and is available for selection. But, there seems little gain in risking him when England already have Mark Wood in the squad.
Here are the probable playing XIs:
India - KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur/Deepak Chahar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal
England - Jos Buttler (wk), Jason Roy, Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Curran, Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan, Jofra Archer/Mark Wood, Adil Rashid
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