K L Rahul to bat in middle-order in first New Zealand ODI
India are set to field two debutant openers in Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal in the first ODI against New Zealand, in Hamilton on Wednesday, after skipper Virat Kohli confirmed that K L Rahul will continue to bat in the middle-order.
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, on Tuesday, ruled out of the upcoming three games and Tests that will follow due to a left calf muscle strain, necessitating a complete change in the opening combination.
Rahul will keep wickets and bat at number five like he did during the Australia series, Kohli said on Tuesday.
"Prithvi's definitely going to start and whoever the replacement is, we'll ask for an opener (which has already been decided with Mayank Agarwal replacing Rohit). KL will bat in the middle-order. We want him to get accustomed to that role and keep as well," said Kohli.
Kohl said Rohit's absence will not affect the team's preparations as there are not many ODI series lined up in the year of the T20 World Cup.
“I understand it's an unfortunate situation that Rohit can't be a part of this series. 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 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," he said.
New Zealand will also be missing Kane Williamson as also pacers Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson.
Kohli said ODIs this year are all about opportunities to different players across both sides.
"Quite surprising (that Williamson is missing) because he said he felt better. But 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.
"So I'm sure he's not in a shape to take the field. As I said, 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."
Kohli said injuries to Dhawan and Rohit are a good opportunity for Shaw and Agarwal.
"Rohit's injury is unfortunate, but someone who steps in, it's a chance for that guy to experience this kind of pressure and expectation, and for us to see who are the guys that cope with it. Kane has done it so many times, and you know what he can do.
"So someone who gets the chance, it'll be an opportunity for the team to see how he copes with that pressure. I see it that way. I see it as an opportunity for others rather than looking at it negatively," he added.