Refreshed and rejuvenated after a much-deserved break, India will look to start the English summer on a high when they take the field in the first of the two-match T20I series against Ireland here on Wednesday. The T20Is against Ireland is only a precursor to the sterner tests in England, where the Virat Kohli-led side will tour next to play three T20Is, three One-day Internationals (ODI) and five Test matches.
This is the first time a full-strength Indian team will be seen in action, since the tour of South Africa earlier this year. Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Mahendra Singh Dhoni were rested for the T20 tri-series in Sri Lanka in March, while the former trio also missed the one-off Test against Afghanistan in Bengaluru recently.
Going into the first T20I, Kohli and the team management will have a sweet dilemma over the selection of the playing XI. With a set opening combination in Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma and Kohli at No.3, Lokesh Rahul seems a likely starter for the No.4 spot in the absence of Ajinkya Rahane.
It will be interesting to see whom among the trio of Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik and Manish Pandey get a game with Dhoni and all-rounder Hardik Pandya filling up the No.6 and 7 spots. While Raina also provides a sixth bowling option combined with his batting, India would also not want to drop Karthik, who is in sizzling form since March. It could mean that Pandey eventually warms the bench.
On the bowling front, Kohli will be tempted to field both leg-spinners, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, giving them an early taste of conditions here. The pace battery will most likely be led by the established duo of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah even as Umesh Yadav will be eager to be back in the shortest version for India for the first time since 2012.
With Pandya as the third seaming option, it will also be interesting to see whether medium pacer Siddharth Kaul makes his India debut after an impressive stint in the Indian Premier League (IPL) For the hosts, skipper Gary Wilson, former captain William Porterfield and all-rounder Kevin O'Brien are the ones to have T20 experience against an Indian team. Meanwhile, 31-year-old Punjab-born off-spinner Simranjit Singh will enjoy the spotlight of playing against his erstwhile nation.
India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Manish Pandey, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (WK), Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Siddarth Kaul.
Ireland: Gary Wilson (Captain & WK), Andrew Balbirnie, Peter Chase, George Dockrell, Josh Little, Andy McBrine, Kevin O'Brien, William Porterfield, Stuart Poynter, Boyd Rankin, James Shannon, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson.