IND vs NZ 1st T20I: Shubman Gill- Captain’s choice

No’, came the swift response on the mention of Prithvi Shaw getting a start in the eleven on his return to the India squad for the three-match T20I series against New Zealand, that starts in Ranchi on Friday.

India’s T20 captain Hardik Pandya was clear about who would open for his side. Shubman Gill, in sublime, has a clear headway over Shaw, who last featured for his country 17 months ago. “Shubman (Gill) has done well. He’ll start. It isn’t even about giving him an opportunity as he has been batting well and was already in the team before,” he asserted.

Gill displayed otherworldly form with the bat as he scored 360 runs in the recently concluded ODI series against the Black Caps. A record joint-highest figure he shares with Pakistan captain Babar Azam. After nine innings so far across formats in 2023, Gill leads the run scoring tally in international cricket with 625, including a fifty, two centuries and a double hundred.

He, though, has not set the shortest format fire for his country. In three T20Is, all against Sri Lanka in the recent series, he has only managed 58 runs. But he was in red-hot form in the IPL, peeling off 483 runs at a strike rate of 132.32 and wrapping up the title for Gujarat Titans with a six.

Shaw, who captained Gill during India’s 2018 U19 World Cup triumph, has been in red-hot form across formats this domestic season for Mumbai, which paved his way back into the national side.

In the ongoing Ranji Trophy season, Shaw registered a second highest score in the tournament’s history (379). Also 23, the opener was Mumbai’s highest run-scorer in the 2022 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy triumph, striking at 181.42. At IPL 2022, Shaw scored 193 Powerplay runs in the nine innings this season, at 9.57 runs an over, a rate brisker than any of his Indian counterparts. He, though, could only manage 283 runs in 10 outings. He last played for India during the 2021 tour of Sri Lanka and has only made one T20I outing for the men in blue despite his reputation as a quickfire run scorer.

With senior players including Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul hinted to have been out of the T20 schemes and Ruturaj Gaikwad ruled out of the series owing to a wrist injury, Shaw may yet get to feature in the format.

Even though southpaw Ishan Kishan starts the series as a first-choice opener alongside Gill, Hardik indicated that he does not buy too much into the left-right combination theory. “It doesn’t matter whether it is left-right or right-right,” he said. “The best players will get to play no matter if they are left or right handed.”

On stepping up as India’s new ball bowler Hardik said: “I have always enjoyed bowling with the new ball. For quite a number of years whenever I bowl in the nets, I pick the new ball. I am used to the old ball so I don’t feel the need to practice with the old ball as much. It has helped in match situations.”

“With our two main bowlers rested in the last game, I had to be ready. But (it) has never been about pressure, half of the time pressure is gone if you prepare well,” he added.