According to a PTI report, KL Rahul’s stupendous form in the white-ball version of the game makes him a firm favourite to retain his place back in the red-ball team for the tour of New Zealand. India is set to play five T20Is, three ODIs, and two Tests against the Kiwis, starting from January 24.
As soon as the India-Australia duel concludes on Sunday, all the attention will shift towards the India squad for the six-week tour of New Zealand next week. Given that KL Rahul has India’s most consistent player in limited-overs cricket recently and with skipper Virat Kohli’s comments that it’s difficult to leave a player like Rahul from any squad, Rahul is likely to make the trip.
The fit-again Prithvi Shaw or Shubman Gill — who was the reserve Test opener during the home season in 2019 — are the other options up top.
Meanwhile, selectors continue to scratch their heads over Hardik Pandya’s fitness before picking the ODI and Test squads for the tour in Bengaluru on Sunday. The all-rounder had failed the mandatory “bowling workload test” after which his personal trainer S Rajnikanth advised him to pull out of India A’s shadow tour. In case Hardik doesn’t recover in time, the selectors may look at the hitting prowess of Suryakumar Yadav or Ajinkya Rahane who is known for his technical superiority.
“Kedar is certainly not going to play 2023 World Cup and doesn’t even bowl now. Since he is not in T20, no point in carrying him to New Zealand. Possibly Surya or Rahane should be tried,” a BCCI source privy to selection matters told PTI.
The other change in the Test squad could be a first-ever call up for the fast-rising Navdeep Saini, making the trip as an extra pacer rather than a third spinner in Kuldeep Yadav, since only one — among Ravichandran Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja — will make the playing XI.
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