Life without MS Dhoni starts for India and other talking points ahead of T20 series

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Rishabh Pant could take the gloves for India on Sunday.

After India triumphed 3-1 over the West Indies in the five-match ODI series, the two sides will now turn their attentions to the T20s which get underway at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday.

With India skipper Virat Kohli handed a rest, Rohit Sharma will lead the men in blue in the three-match T20 series.

As the two sides get ready to battle it out at the iconic Eden Gardens, we look at the talking points ahead of the clash.

WINDIES SEEK T20 COMFORTS

While the Test and the ODI series might have gone the way of India comprehensively, the visitors will be a different beast in the T20 format.

The reigning ICC World Twenty20 champions, the Windies will welcome back their stalwarts Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard into the fold for the three-match series.

The experienced T20 stalwarts should provide the perfect complement to the West Indies’ mercurial young talents in the form of Shimron Hetmyer, Oshane Thomas and Obed McCoy.

The visitors would have backed themselves to hurt India the most in the T20 format before the start of their tour and now it remains their only chance to salvage something from their visit.

With India missing Kohli, the tourists will back themselves to bring down the curtains on an otherwise disappointing tour with a victory.

T20 bigwigs like Andre Russell return for the Windies.

T20 bigwigs like Andre Russell return for the Windies.

LIFE WITHOUT DHONI STARTS FOR INDIA

India’s selectors sprung a major surprise when they announced the T20 squad for the series against both the Windies and Australia. Veteran wicketkeeper batsman MS Dhoni’s was a glaring omission from the squad with Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik preferred in the position.

The absence of the veteran of 93 T20 matches for India will loom large over the Eden Gardens clash as Pant and Karthik get a run-out. While calls for axing Dhoni from the limited-overs squads had been growing of late, it is only now that the selectors have made the first move as they look ahead to the 2020 World Twenty20 in Australia.

With Dhoni out of the picture, it will be up to Pant and Karthik to stake their claims for a permanent role and the series against the Windies could very well establish the frontrunner between the two.

Dinesh Karthik is in direct competition with Rishabh Pant.

Dinesh Karthik is in direct competition with Rishabh Pant.

CHANCE FOR INDIA’S FRINGE PLAYERS TO IMPRESS

With the countdown to the 2019 World Cup in England picking up pace, the race for the spots in the India side is well and truly on. The three T20s against the Windies will provide another platform for the men in blue to test their various combinations for the global showpiece next year.

One man who will be desperate to score some runs is KL Rahul, who has been out of favour in the ODI format of late. The right-hander has a chance to reaffirm his credentials in Kohli’s absence. He will face a tough fight for a spot in the playing XI along with young Shreyas Iyer as well as Manish Pandey.

Another man who will be itching to make his mark is all-rounder Krunal Pandya, who has been handed a maiden India call-up. He is not the only player to receive his first international call-up for India with left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem in the fray too.

Whether they play on Sunday remains to be seen but expect the Indian team management to give everyone a run-out in the series before their departure for a long and tough tour of Australia.

KL Rahul has another chance to stake his claim.

KL Rahul has another chance to stake his claim.

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Pakistan look to add the icing on the cake as New Zealand strive for improvements

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Pakistan are on a roll in T20 cricket.

The series might already be decided but there will no loss in the competitive edge when Pakistan and New Zealand meet in the final T20 at Dubai on Sunday.

Sarfraz Ahmed’s men sealed their 11th straight T20I series win on the bounce when they beat the Kiwis by six wickets on Friday to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.

As the two sides get ready to lock horns one final time before the start of the ODI series, we look ahead to Sunday’s clash.

WILLIAMSON AND BLACKCAPS LOOK FOR IMPROVEMENT

Coming out of their seven-month hibernation from international cricket, New Zealand have given a terrific account of themselves in the two games so far but have fallen just short on both occasions.

In the first game, they were narrowly beaten by two runs after being well on top before Pakistan chased down their total of 153-7 with two balls to spare on Friday.

It has been a game of fine margins for Kane Williamson and his men and the Kiwi skipper is hoping that they can make the small improvements in the final match of the series.

Much to improve upon for the Kiwis.

Much to improve upon for the Kiwis.

T20 KINGS PAKISTAN LOOK TO MAINTAIN DOMINANCE

“They have been outstanding for a long period of time and the ratings are fair. They are No1 so it is good. They are very very clinical over here in these conditions. They have been very consistent,” Williamson said after his side’s six-wicket defeat.

The Kiwi skipper’s glowing review adds to a growing list of admirers of Pakistan’s T20 prowess. Sarfraz Ahmed’s men have been the undisputed No1 side in the format for some time now with Friday’s win being their 28th in the last 32 matches played by the side.

While the series might be done and dusted, the men in green will not want to take their foot off the accelerator as they bid for a second successive 3-0 series clean sweep following their demolition of Australia last month.

Sarfraz's men are flying at the moment.

Sarfraz’s men are flying at the moment.

SHAHEEN AFRIDI GAINING IN CONFIDENCE

While Pakistan have maintained their T20 supremacy, it has been a coming-of-age series for teenager Shaheen Afridi.

After impressing against Australia, the left-armed pacer has been given an extended run-out against the Kiwis and has grasped his opportunity with both hands.

In the first game, he was entrusted to bowl the crux final over and he repaid his skipper’s faith as Pakistan pulled off a two-run win. In the second game, the youngster produced a man-of-the-match performance that saw his pick up 3-20.

With confidence flowing through the veins of the 18-year-old, he will be itching to put in another solid display on Sunday as he seeks to establish his claim for a place in the 2019 World Cup squad.

Afridi's stature continues to grow.

Afridi’s stature continues to grow.

LIKELY XIs

Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Asif Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali.

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Colin Munro, Glenn Phillips, Colin de Grandhomme, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, Tim Seifert (wk), Tim Southee, Adam Milne, Ajaz Patel.

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Marcus Trescothick backs England openers to take their chance in Sri Lanka

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Keaton Jennings (l) and Rory Burns (r) will be in the spotlight.

Marcus Trescothick hopes Keaton Jennings and Rory Burns can “forge their own path” as England prepare to begin life without Alastair Cook.

Cook brought the curtain down on his distinguished career with an emotional farewell at the Oval in September and will be absent from the Test XI for the first time in 12 years when England begin their three-match series against Sri Lanka in Galle on Tuesday.

In his place at the top of the order will be Jennings, the last of a dozen partners Cook worked through after Andrew Strauss’ retirement, and newcomer Burns, who might consider himself unlucky not to have been number 13.

Trescothick’s own departure from the international stage in 2006 made room at opener for the man who would become the country’s leading run-scorer and he is hoping for another successful transition.

“I think they can forge their own path now, it’s not something where they’re going into it knowing Alastair is there as someone to be compared to all the time,” he told Press Association Sport.

“It’s tricky being compared to Alastair Cook at the other end. It’s time to move forward and change the style of what they’ve done. It’s a great opportunity to look at something totally fresh.

“I think it’s exciting times for England, having to find and forge the next partnership at the top of the order. We’ve got to be very careful that we don’t judge them too quickly.”

Burns has been backed to shine by Trescothick.

Burns has been backed to shine by Trescothick.

Trescothick is particularly keen for Surrey captain Burns to get a fair crack of the whip.

He comes into the side as the leading domestic batsman of 2018 and with more than 1,000 first-class runs in each of the past five seasons.

Those facts, rather than an idiosyncratic approach, are what matters to the 76-Test veteran.

“They way his technique is set up is a little bit different at times but at the point of impact he’s no different to anyone else so you need to see past that,” he said.

“In England we can get a little bit caught up on how it looks, but it’s got to be about the volume of runs not how you go about it.

“If you reverse swept every ball for six and kept making hundreds nobody would bat an eyelid.

“That is the challenge he has to deal with, it’s not always as black and white as we expect. But I’m sure Rory will do well if gets the opportunity because he’s continued scoring runs for a good period of time.

“This year he was the leading batsman across the board and you have to commend him for that.”

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