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India to play against Afghanistan in the first T20 of three-match series in Mohali

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In Men’s Cricket, India will lock horns with Afghanistan in the first T20 of the three-match series at the Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali today. The match will start at 7 PM, IST.

Skipper Rohit Sharma will return to lead India in the shortest format for the first time in 14 months, while Head coach Rahul Dravid announced that Virat Kohli will sit out the first match due to personal reasons

The narrative of Virat Kohli’s comeback in T20Is will have to wait. India head coach Rahul Dravid revealed that Kohli will not be available for the opening T20I against Afghanistan in Mohali due to personal reasons. The tourists, on the other hand, will be without the experience of Rashid Khan, who has been ruled out of the entire series.

The series marks the final leg of India’s preparations for the 2024 T20 World Cup and Rohit, who has not featured in the shortest format for India since their semifinal exit at the 2022 World Cup in Australia, is back at the helm. Kohli might not be around to play to the comeback narrative but Rohit surely is.

After a middling IPL 2023 season, Rohit turned around his form and approach to white-ball cricket with a near 600-run World Cup campaign at home silencing all critics. His recall — alongside Kohli’s — for the only international series left ahead of the World Cup can’t be a stop-gap arrangement, and indicates that he and Kohli still remain in India’s plans for the marquee event six months later.

Same can also be implied for the returning Sanju Samson, who has forced his way back with a maiden international ODI ton in South Africa recently and seems to have staved off competition from the hard-hitting finisher Jitesh Sharma for now. What XI India pick and persist with through the series, especially with regards to their top-six, will largely be a window into the selectors’ and team management’s mindset for the showpiece event. The pace-bowling department in particular is missing a few key names as well, presenting a final opportunity to those on the fringes to make their case for a World Cup ticket.

Afghanistan, meanwhile, have been dealt with a cruel blow on the eve of the series opener with their experienced allrounder Rashid ruled out. The regular T20I captain of the side hasn’t played competitive cricket since the 2023 ODI World Cup in India, skipping the ongoing BBL due to a lower-back surgery. The India series was touted to be his comeback and he did travel with the team, but on the eve of curtain-raiser he hasn’t been deemed match-fit yet and will continue his rehabilitation instead on the sidelines.

What is heartening for the visitors is the return of players like Mujeeb ur Rahman and Naveen-ul-Haq, whose IPL experience they can bank on, after the Afghanistan Cricket Board recently softened its stance regarding the trio’s participation in franchise leagues after having temporarily cancelled the NOCs in between. As a result, Mujeeb wasn’t part of the recent UAE series while the other two had managed to reach a compromise with the Board just in time to feature on that trip.

Squads:

Afghanistan Squad: Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmanullah Gurbaz(w), Ibrahim Zadran(c), Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Azmatullah Omarzai, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Qais Ahmad, Naveen-ul-Haq, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Noor Ahmad, Mohammad Saleem Safi, Karim Janat, Ikram Alikhil, Fareed Ahmad Malik, Rahmat Shah, Gulbadin Naib

India Squad: Rohit Sharma(c), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Sanju Samson(w), Axar Patel, Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan, Kuldeep Yadav, Mukesh Kumar, Jitesh Sharma, Washington Sundar, Shivam Dube, Ravi Bishnoi

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