New Delhi | Jagran Sports Desk: Preparations for the World Cup on top of their agenda for the Men in Blue as they are set to take on an injury-hit New Zealand in a rare five-match T20I series starting Friday. Unlike most foreign tours, which includes warm-ups, this will be a quick start for the Indian team. In a tight season, the first contest comes only five days after their last ODI against Australia in their backyard.

The team had reached in Auckland on Tuesday and chose to rest the next day. They hit the nets ahead of the tour-opening game on Thursday. On the positive side, the hectic schedule helped team management maintain consistency in team selection as they continue to experiment across the available squad in a T20 World Cup year-- scheduled to be held in Australia in October this year.

Also Read: Ind vs NZ | ‘Can’t think of revenge against ‘nice’ Kiwis’: Skipper Kohli recalls World Cup loss ahead of first T20I

Despite injury concerns to key white-ball player Shikhar Dhawan, Hardik Pandya, Deepak Chahar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar this past home season, the bench has come along well and are raring to go for upcoming challenges. It begins at the top where KL Rahul has stepped up as a key part of India's white-ball plans.

He did enough against the West Indies as Shikhar Dhawan's replacement to merit a starting spot, and then formed a solid pairing when Dhawan returned while Rohit Sharma was rested.

Skipper Virat Kohli dropped hints that Rahul's newfound confidence in his dual role as batsman-keeper has given option to play an extra player. According to Kohli, Rahul will continue to keep wickets in both ODIs and T20Is, but will open with Rohit Sharma in the shortest format while returning to the middle-order in the 50-over format.

It could mean that Prithvi Shaw could make an ODI debut and a potential pairing with Rohit in the ODI series set to begin on February 5.

Kohli also indicated a change in middle order plans. With Rahul keeping wickets, Rishabh Pant could lose his spot in the playing eleven.

Manish Pandey is expected to play as the fifth specialist batsman and Shreyas Iyer will regain his spot at number four.

The Yuzvendra Chahal-Kuldeep Yadav combination is yet to play a game together since the 2019 ODI World Cup, and it remains to be seen if things will change in this aspect.

In the pace department, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah are assured starters, while the toss-up will be between Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini.

New Zealand had beaten India 2-1 in the T20I series last year.

Also Read: 'Top team gym session'| Kohli shares picture with fittest teammates as India reach Auckland for 1st T20I

Despite the recent good record in the shortest format, there is a downbeat mood in the hosts' dressing room thanks to the 3-0 whitewash by Aussies in the previous month.

For the moment, New Zealand's leading batsman ans skipper Kane Williamson is happy to lead the side across all formats, but his position is up for review after the shattering defeat to Australia.

As always, they have a dearth of all-rounders to choose from but need to balance with pickings in the pace department, which is missing the services of Trent Boult, Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson owing to injuries.

It remains to be seen if the Black Caps opt for two spinners in Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner given the really short boundaries at Eden Park, venue for the first two T20Is.

Teams (from):

India: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul (wk), Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Shreyas Iyer, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini, Washington Sundar.

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Scott Kuggeleijn, Colin Munro, Colin de Grandhomme, Tom Bruce, Daryl Mitchell, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert (wk), Hamish Bennett, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Blair Tickner.

Match starts at 12.20pm on Friday. 

Posted By: James Kuanal