Team India began 2020 with series wins against Sri Lanka and Australia. The wins culminated in a successful home season, with India winning every series on home soil except a drawn T20I series against South Africa in September last year. India are now set to conquer New Zealand where they have tasted minimal success.
It won't be easy by any means as New Zealand have a formidable squad in all three formats of the game. Also, India have their own set of problems, with players fighting it out to seal their spot in the World Cup squad. India's lower-middle order has been a worrisome factor for captain Virat Kohli.
A few players have been sidelined with injuries, and lack of consistent performers means those places are still up for grabs. In the bowling department , the third seamer slot, and the primary spinner slot is still open. The five-match T20I series presents a wonderful opportunity for players to perform well and stake their claim in the squad.
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On that note, let's look at three Indians who need to step-up in the series.
#3 Shivam Dube
Shivam Dube is part of the rare breed of cricketers that the country have produced - a seam-bowling all-rounder. With impactful performances in the domestic circuit, coupled with an injury to Hardik Pandya, he earned a call-up to the national team.
The southpaw has struggled to contribute in his brief T20I career. But the team management has backed him with opportunities. He was promoted to No.3 in a T20I against West Indies, and he responded with a quick-fire 54. He also showed promise with the ball against Bangladesh last year.
With series on the line, Dube's second spell turned the match on its head. His slower delivery and an off-stump yorker dismissed Bangladesh's two best batsmen of the series. But this doesn't guarantee his spot in the team as Pandya is expected to be a part of the playing XI once he is fit. It's high time that the 26-year-old performs consistently to claim a spot in the World Cup squad.
Ravindra Jadeja has been one of the key players in India's limited-overs set up. Having lost his place briefly, the southpaw came back strongly in the 2018 Asia Cup. Despite good performances, Jadeja hasn't been able to cement his place in the T20I team.
Jadeja's presence gives a great balance to any T20 side. His batting has improved a lot with him being a reliable lower-order batsman, who can hit the ball long. The left-arm spinner could attack and contain the batsmen depending upon the conditions. His fielding skills are on-par with the best in the world.
So, he might be of great use in the long outfields of Australia in the T20 World Cup. With Kohli expressing his view to have bowlers who can bat, Jadeja might get an extended run in this series. But the 31-year-old has to perform well as the likes of Washington Sundar and Vijay Shankar are waiting in the wings to take over from him.
#1 Rishabh Pant
2019 didn't turn out the way Rishabh Pant would have expected after his blistering start in Australia. After the 2019 World Cup, Pant was expected to be a regular for India in all three formats. But fortunes have flung the other way as he lost his Test spot to Wriddhiman Saha.
An unfortunate injury in the first ODI against Australia resulted in KL Rahul threatening his spot behind the stumps in the limited-overs format. Captain Kohli's words about the same after the series win has added woes to the talented youngster. But the series against New Zealand presents a wonderful opportunity to the 22-year-old.
Pant might get to play every game of the T20I series against New Zealand. A couple of good knocks will reaffirm his stature as India's future wicket-keeper batsman in ODIs and T20Is. Whenever Pant plays to his potential, he has been a treat to watch. The Delhi-lad will be hoping to prove his mettle against the Kiwis.