Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal will open the batting for India in the first ODI against New Zealand in Wellington, captain Virat Kohli confirmed on Tuesday.
This means that T20 opener KL Rahul will continue to bat in the middle-order in the 50-over format. He will also keep wickets and bat at number five as he did during the Australia series.
“Prithvi [Shaw]’s definitely going to start and whoever the replacement is, we’ll ask for an opener,” Kohli said. “Rahul will bat in the middle-order. We want him to get accustomed to that role and keep as well.”
Regular opener Shikhar Dhawan was ruled out of the New Zealand T20s and ODIs last month after hurting his left shoulder during the home ODIs against Australia.
His partner and India vice-captain Rohit Sharma was ruled out of the ODIs and the following Test series on Tuesday due to a left calf muscle strain, necessitating a change in the opening combination.
But Kohli said that Sharma’s absence doesn’t hurt India’s preparations for the T20 World Cup as India do not play many ODIs in the year.
“I understand it’s an unfortunate situation that Rohit can’t be a part of this series,” Kohli said. “When you talk about one-day cricket and T20 cricket and Test cricket now, he’s one guy who’s always on the list first. But the thing is that we don’t have any one-day tournaments to look forward to.”
“It’s, if anything, an ideal time for him to go away and rectify this as soon as he can and come back,” he added. “He played the T20I series, so from the team’s balance point of view heading into the World Cup year, it doesn’t really hamper the combination as far as the T20s are concerned.”
The Indian captain hoped that Shaw and Agarwal will make full use of the opportunities give to Agarwal and Shaw in the absence of Dhawan and Sharma.
“Someone who gets the chance, it’ll be an opportunity for the team to see how he copes with that pressure,” he said. “I see it that way. I see it as an opportunity for others rather than looking at it negatively.”
New Zealand too will be without captain Kane Williamson, pacer Trent Boult and fast bowler Lockie Ferguson.
“Quite surprising [that Williamson is missing] because he said he felt better,” Kohli said. “I know with the AC joint (left shoulder), I’ve had it as well. Unless you get into the action, it’s very difficult to make a judgement of how much pain you feel. Especially for a batsman, if the shoulder is not right, it can hurt you.”
Kohli said that ODIs this year are all about giving opportunities to the players as India tries to find the right team combination.
“The one-day games this year is all about whoever gets the opportunity what they can do in the team combination and not necessarily about whether the chances of winning or losing wary or not. That’s what we are looking at as well,” he explained.