There are 19 players available for selection and with two in contention for each slot, the XI for the five games, starting here on Friday, will be an indication to how head coach Ravi Shastri, captain Virat Kohli and bowling coach Bharat Arun are looking at the next six to seven months for the shortest format.
Will they look for a settled combination to first clinch the series and then experiment or will they field absolute rookies in the squad looking at the bigger picture?
For a team that’s so closely followed, the result does matter and that’s why one can expect a settled first eleven for the first three games since all matches are at the same venue on similar kind of tracks.
The roaring comeback of Rishabh Pant will lead to a lot of interesting developments at the top of the order.
Pant’s inclusion means that KL Rahul, who till a few months ago was the first choice keeper-opener, is unlikely to don the big gloves.
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma were a settled white ball opening pair till recently but Rahul’s emergence as a potent white ball specialist has spiced up the competition.
Dhawan recently had a score of 150 odd in the Vijay Hazare Trophy for Delhi and when it comes to Rohit, there’s nothing to be discussed.
So where does the team management fit in Rahul, who has been a successful IPL opener? Will he be slotted in the middle-order as Dhawan’s game is not suited to batting lower down?
With skipper Kohli himself coming in at No 3 and two game-changers like Pant and all-rounder Hardik Pandya expected to play the big shots at Nos 5 and 6, where does it ideally leave Rahul?
The only place he can be slotted is No 4 but Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav are also jostling for a place. Similarly, in the pace department, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, once upon a time India’s best white-ball exponent, is coming back after a long lay-off and will be engaged in a two-way fight with Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur. For Bhuvneshwar, his experience and being a better bowler at the death compared to Chahar holds him in good stead but he hasn’t played a lot of cricket save a few Mushtaq Ali games.
Meanwhile, Thangarasu Natarajan, with his variation of yorkers, stands a better chance to start compared to Navdeep Saini.