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Cricket news - Fringe players in focus as India start afresh

Manish Pandey is one of the fringe players who will be looking to impress in the first T20I in Florida

After faltering at the penultimate step at the 2019 World Cup, India have set their sights on the next ICC Trophy - the Men's T20 WC in Australia next October. It's a format that makes their opposition, West Indies, tick, and the hosts could not have asked for a better format to get back to winning ways after a rather disappointing World Cup campaign, where they could muster just two wins and finished only above Afghanistan in the points table.

Come Saturday, the three-match T20I series to kick off India's full tour of Caribbean will mark the beginning of T20 WC preparations for both the inaugural and the defending champions. The first two games are slated to be played back-to-back over the weekend, in Miami, Florida and the inclement weather is likely to intervene. But, on India's agenda at the moment, as skipper Virat Kohli mentioned in the pre-departure press conference, is handing out opportunities to the fringe players.

Both Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey fell off selectors' radar last year. Both have deservedly earned their spot back in the squad on the back of some consistent showing on the A tour to the same shores. However, with KL Rahul likely slotting back at No. 4 and Rishabh Pant being the lone wicketkeeper on tour, there's only one vacant spot left in the top-six for which the duo will be auditioned over the course of the six limited-overs games across formats.

Among those rested are Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah, though the latter will link up with the squad ahead of the two-match Test series. It remains to be seen if Krunal Pandya becomes the automatic choice to replace the all-rounder's slot at No. 7, left vacant by his brother. His competition is with the veteran Ravindra Jadeja who forced his way back into India's ODI plans with a memorable comeback at the 2018 Asia Cup, but is yet to play a T20I since the recall, and off-spin all-rounder Washington Sundar.

Left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed would be the front-runner to replace Bumrah in the line up, though also back in the mix is Deepak Chahar while Navdeep Saini is in line for a probable international debut after impressing with the A side last month. Uncapped legspinner Rahul Chahar completes India's bowling line-up.

Never to be underestimated in the T20 format, West Indies have got a significant power boost with veteran all-rounders Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine being recalled for the series. Both, in fact, have runs under their belt, courtesy their brief stint in the Global T20 League in Canada.

Andre Russell though has marked himself unavailable due his ongoing knee issue, taking some sheen off the T20 contests. Nonetheless, his absence is offset by some of the most exciting and promising T20 stars in the home team's line-up - Shimron Hetmyer, Oshane Thomas and Nicholas Pooran. The squad promises a fine mix of youth and experience, and also a healthy dose of entertainment.

"The team is young, and we like to mix the experienced players with the youth. We have a very good blend. We are looking forward to the matches here in Florida. It should be a very exciting weekend, lots of entertainment for the fans," said West Indies coach Floyd Reifer, in anticipation of a cracker of a contest.

When: 1st T20I on August 3 at 8 PM IST | 2:30 PM GMT

Where: Central Broward Regional Park Stadium Turf Ground, Lauderhill, Florida

What to expect: Scattered thunderstorms are on the cards in Miami, with a forecast of 65 per cent chance of rain ruining the cricket weekend in the city. If the games do happen, the captains might be tempted to field first and chase.

Team News

West Indies: The hosts suffered an injury setback on the eve of the series opener with Andre Russell ruling himself out for the first two T20Is due to his ongoing knee trouble. The all-rounder went for a surgery after being ruled out of the World Cup, but is believed to have experienced some discomfort during his one-game comeback appearance at the Global T20 League and conveyed the WI selectors about his inability to partake in the T20Is. Jason Mohammed, the middle order batsman, is his replacement.

Squad: Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Rovman Powell, John Campbell, Kieron Pollard, Carlos Brathwaite (C), Keemo Paul, Jason Mohammed, Khary Pierre, Nicholas Pooran (WK), Anthony Bramble, Sunil Narine, Sheldon Cottrell, Oshane Thomas

India: With a fully fit squad to pick from, India have a problem of plenty for filling more than a couple of spots. Given the small dimensions of the ground, Krunal Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, and to a lesser extent, Washington Sundar and Rahul Chahar, would be fighting for the lone spinner's spot in the eleven. And with a full-strength batting unit on tour, only one between Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey can make the cut at No. 5 as rest of the top-six pick themselves.

Squad: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (C), KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (WK), Krunal Pandya, Washington Sundar, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Navdeep Saini, Rahul Chahar, Deepak Chahar

Did you know?

- Evin Lewis has scored two 100s against India in the three T20Is he played against them.

- Sunil Narine has dismissed Rohit Sharma seven times in T20 cricket with a dismissal every 19 balls.

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