Who: India vs Afghanistan
When: January 11, 14, 17
Where: Mohali, Indore, Bengaluru
India will rely on the services of their biggest batting stars Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli to lead them to victory in a home Twenty20 cricket series against Afghanistan as the 2007 champions build up to the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in June.
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However, Kohli will only play the second and third match as he sits out the first one due to “personal reasons,” Indias coach Rahul Dravid said.
Sharma will captain the team in the three-match series starting on Thursday, less than two months after leading the cricket-mad nation’s unbeaten home run to the 50-over World Cup final, which they lost to Australia.
Middle-order batter Suryakumar Yadav took over captaincy duties in both of India’s T20 series after the one-day international (ODI) World Cup, leading them to a 4-1 home win over Australia and a 1-1 draw in the three-match series away to South Africa, but Sharma will return to the helm after a long break from T20 internationals.
Yadav is recovering from ankle surgery and will not be part of the squad, as well as India’s previous T20 captain Hardik Pandya, who continues his recovery from an injury he sustained during the World Cup.
Both Sharma and Kohli last played a T20 international match in November 2022, when India lost to England in the semifinals of the T20 World Cup in Australia.
Afghanistan will ‘struggle’ without Rashid Khan
Meanwhile, Afghanistan will be without their biggest star, Rashid Khan, as he recovers from back surgery that has kept him from action since the World Cup in India.
Afghanistan captain Ibrahim Zadran said Khan is “not totally fit” but is travelling with the team.
Khan, 25, is one of the most successful Afghan players in T20 cricket. He has previously captained Afghanistan in T20 internationals and has featured in the Indian Premier League since 2017.
“Without Rashid, we will struggle because his experience is crucial to all of us, but this is cricket and you need to be ready for any kind of situation,” Zadran added.
Afghanistan put up an impressive show in the ODI World Cup, with victories over England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands.
Zadran, a 22-year-old opening batsman, said fans’ raised expectations will motivate the team to elevate their performance.
“Not only Afghanistan people are expecting lots of things, but all around the people are expecting [a] lot of things from us nowadays because we played a wonderful World Cup,” he said.
Zadran said the team hoped to “play positive cricket and show our skills on the field”.
The T20 series opens in Mohali on January 11. The next match will be held in Indore on January 14 and the last one in Bengaluru on January 17.
The series will be crucial for both teams as they build up to the 2024 T20 World Cup, which takes place in the West Indies and the United States in June.
Head to head
Both teams have previously met in five T20 internationals, with India winning four and one ending without a result.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Jitesh Sharma (wicketkeeper), Sanju Samson (wk), Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Ravi Bishnoi, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan, Mukesh Kumar
Afghanistan: Ibrahim Zadran (captain), Hazratullah Zazai, Ikram Alikhil (wk), Najibullah Zadran, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Azmatullah Omarzai, Gulbadin Naib, Karim Janat, Mohammad Nabi, Rahmat Shah, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Fareed Ahmad, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Mohammad Saleem, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Naveen-ul-Haq, Noor Ahmad, Qais Ahmad