As India begin life in the T20 format without veteran MS Dhoni, stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma is backing Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik to stake their claims in the upcoming three-match series against the West Indies.
Standing in for Virat Kohli – who has been given a rest – Rohit is confident Pant and Karthik can provide India with wicket-keeping alternatives to Dhoni with the 2019 World Cup looming large.
“Dhoni has been such a massive player for us over the years. His experience in the middle, behind the stumps, will be missed but Rishabh and Dinesh are both keepers and they have a great opportunity to show what they are capable of,” Rohit stated on the eve of the series.
“Rishabh and Dinesh have done well in T20s, whether it’s with their state side or their IPL teams. So it’s a good time to test them. We can’t go into the World Cup with limited resources so you need to keep options at hand,” he added.
While India brushed aside the Windies challenge with ease in the preceding Test and ODI series, the visitors will be a completely different challenge in the T20s given they are the reigning world champions in the format.
With T20 behemoths such as Andre Russell, Carlos Brathwaite and Kieron Pollard returning to the fray, the India stand-in skipper is wary of threat the visitors will pose in the series.
“Not just Russell and Pollard, but the rest of their team has also played a lot of T20 cricket. They have their own league, they have more experience and it’s a format they enjoy the most. It won’t be easy,” he stated.
“We need to understand their strengths and weakness, but the focus is on our team instead of theirs. I think they are a dangerous team. They still are defending champions in T20 cricket, so of course, they are one of the strongest teams in the world when it comes to T20 cricket.”
India, meanwhile, have given call-ups to Krunal Pandya, Shahbaz Nadeem, Shreyas Iyer and Washington Sundar and Rohit believes the series is the perfect opportunity for the hosts to test their bench strength ahead of the 2019 World Cup.
“We need to see what our bench strength is. Resting players and giving them a break is also necessary, keeping the workload and the World Cup ahead, we need to take those necessary steps,” Rohit explained.
“And we need to see the guys who are knocking on the door, and what they bring to the table. Come the World Cup, we should be prepared, not just with the 15 players but also those that are outside the 15. Lot of new faces in the team. Shahbaz is coming for the first time, Krunal has been part of the squad but has never played yet.
“So it’s important for us to also understand what’s the best possible squad for the World Cup.”
The first T20 between the two sides will take place at the iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday.
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