Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in a race to 2,000 T20I runs as India get ready to face England

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The two men are nearing the 2, 000-run mark in T20I cricket.

As India get ready to square-off against England in the first T20 at Old Trafford in Manchester, skipper Virat Kohli and his deputy Rohit Sharma will be in a race to get to 2,000 runs in the format.

Kohli is just eight runs shy of the landmark that has only been attained by three batsmen in T20 Internationals history. New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum was the first to get to the mark, followed by his compatriot Martin Guptill.

On Sunday, Pakistan’s Shoaib Malik joined that exclusive club during his unbeaten knock of 37 in the T20 tri-series opener against Zimbabwe.

If Kohli attains the feat on Tuesday, he will become the fastest to get to the 2,000-run mark. McCullum is currently the quickest to the mark after taking 66 innings to get there. Guptill took 68 innings to reach the landmark while Malik is the slowest of the three at 92 innings.

Shoaib Malik reached the landmark a couple of days ago.

Shoaib Malik reached the landmark a couple of days ago.

Kohli, who has so far played only 55 T20I innings, should easily break that record. He has scored 1, 992 runs in the format at an average of 48.58 and a strike-rate of 137.

Meanwhile, Rohit is 51 runs short of the landmark and he could beat his skipper to the mark given the fact that he plays as an opener. The Mumbai-born batsman has scored 1, 949 runs in the format in 74 innings at an average of 31.43 and a strike-rate of nearly 137.

It will be a straight shootout between the two batsmen as to who becomes the first Indian to get to the mark when the visitors take the field against England on Tuesday.

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Umesh Yadav is expected to feature for India in the opening T20.

India begin their nearly two and a half month-long tour of England on Tuesday when they take on the hosts in the first of three T20s at Old Trafford in Manchester.

Virat Kohli’s men are fresh from a 2-0 series win in the format over Ireland and will be looking to make a winning start against the in-form hosts. The Indian side has seen a couple of changes in the lead-up to the series with the injured Jasprit Bumrah and Washington Sundar being replaced by Deepak Chahar and Krunal Pandya respectively.

Bumrah’s injury opens the door for Umesh Yadav to stake his claim for a starting role. Umesh was seen hard at work at the nets along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar on Tuesday.

The Royal Challengers Bangalore pacer is coming into the series after a fine IPL campaign where he bowled some fiery spells. While he is expected to replace Bumrah in the line-up on Tuesday, there could be plenty of shuffling in India’s middle-order. With Shikhar Shawan and Rohit Sharma near unshakable from the opening slot, the in-form KL Rahul is expected to feature in the middle-order.

The Karnataka batsman had a splendid IPL with the bat for Kings XI Punjab and although he naturally plays as an opener, he has been made to bat in the middle-order for India.

Suresh Raina was in decent form in the Ireland series, which means Dinesh Karthik could miss out on the playing XI once again despite his impressive showing in the Nidahas T20 tri-series earlier this year.

It will be all the more unlucky for Karthik given that he did not get an opportunity to bat during the second T20 against Ireland despite being named in the playing XI. However, with Kohli’s comments about testing various middle-order combinations during the tour, the 33-year-old should get his chance.

Kohli will definitely try to restrict England’s batsmen through the wrist-spin pair of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. Hardik Pandya will once again hold the all-rounder’s slot.

INDIA LIKELY XI

Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli (c), KL Rahul, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal.

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Rahul Dravid pleased with India's bench strength after Krunal Pandya and Deepak Chahar get maiden call-ups

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Rahul Dravid has been doing an excellent job with the India 'A' side.

Rahul Dravid was a pleased man after his India ‘A’ side beat England Lions by five wickets in London on Monday to capture the 50-over tri-series trophy.

Coached by Dravid, India ‘A’ were highly impressive throughout the tri-series with some fine displays from the likes of Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Rishabh Pant and Deepak Chahar.

Following their form in the series, Krunal Pandya and Chahar were added to the Virat Kohli-led India squad for the T20 series against England to replace the injured Washington Sundar and Jasprit Bumrah.

“It’s been quite satisfying, some good performances. A tough game today as well, we had to fight back with the ball and the bat – so good to see them fight, good to see them compete in these conditions. Definitely some positives, as well as seeing some of the boys get into the national side as well, irrespective of the result,” the former India captain told ESPNCricinfo after his side’s win.

Rishabh Pant led India 'A' to victory on Monday with an unbeaten 64.

Rishabh Pant led India ‘A’ to victory on Monday with an unbeaten 64.

“Especially with the World Cup in a year’s time, it’s nice to have bench strength, for the selectors to know there are good young players if the situation does arise. It’s nice to replicate this experience leading into the World Cup, to give these boys some exposure in these conditions,” he added.

Dravid feels that the ‘A’ squad is becoming the perfect platform to develop India’s bench strength.

“There’s a good bench strength being developed and I think it gives people a lot of confidence that there are players, if the situation arises, who are in good touch and playing well. Over the last couple of years, we’ve done really well in white-ball cricket at this level, built up quite a few players. So that’s a good thing for Indian cricket,” the Bengaluru-born man stated.

The 45-year-old was on Sunday inducted in the ICC Hall of Fame along with former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting and England wicketkeeper-batswoman Claire Taylor. Dravid became only the fifth player from India to be given the recognition.

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