Former India head coach Ravi Shastri has named his playing XI for the T20I series opener against South Africa, scheduled to take place at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi on June 9. Notably, in the absence of senior players like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, the Men in Blue will compete with the Proteas in the five-match T20I series under the leadership of KL Rahul.

Shastri picked some obvious choices but didn’t go with the veteran batter Dinesh Karthik. Though, the cricketer-turned-commentator selected Hardik Pandya for the finisher role. Not to mention, Pandya had a great time in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022, where he led Gujarat Titans (GT) to title victory and also finished the tournament as the fourth highest run-getter.

For the opening position, Shastri went with Rahul along with Ruturaj Gaikwad and named Ishan Kishan as his number three. Following Kishan, Shastri picked Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant and Pandya.

“I think they will go with the guys they will want to see first – the Rahuls, the Ruturaj Gaikwads – maybe they will open. They will probably give Ishan (Kishan) a break in this game or bat him at three,” Shastri said on the Star Sports show ‘Game Plan’.

“If you bat him (Ishan) at three, then it will be Shreyas (Iyer) at No. 4, (Rishabh) Pant at No. 5, and Hardik (Pandya) at No. 6,” he added.

Among the bowlers, the 60-year-old selected Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal and Harshal Patel. He had a toss-up between Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh – both of them have received their maiden call-up to the Indian squad following a super show in IPL 2022.

Ravi Shastri’s India XI for the first T20I against South Africa:

KL Rahul, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh/Umran Malik, Harshal Patel.

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