Shubman Gill confirms Abhishek Sharma to open with him in first T20 against Zimbabwe

Harare, July 5 (IANS) Shubman Gill, India’s captain for the five-match T20I tour of Zimbabwe, has confirmed that he will be opening the batting with his Punjab state-mate Abhishek Sharma, while Ruturaj Gaikwad will bat at number three in the series opener at the Harare Sports Club on Saturday.
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Shubman Gill confirms Abhishek Sharma to open with him in first T20 against Zimbabwe

Harare, July 5 (IANS) Shubman Gill, India’s captain for the five-match T20I tour of Zimbabwe, has confirmed that he will be opening the batting with his Punjab state-mate Abhishek Sharma, while Ruturaj Gaikwad will bat at number three in the series opener at the Harare Sports Club on Saturday.

With the next edition of the T20 World Cup to be hosted by India and Sri Lanka in 2026, the T20Is against Zimbabwe mark the beginning of a new two-year journey for the current world champions in the shortest format.

“Abhishek will open with me, and Ruturaj will play at number three. Rohit bhai and Virat bhai had opened in the World Cup, and I also open (the innings) in the T20s. So, I think I would like to open in the T20s,” said Gill in the pre-match press conference.

Gill and Abhishek, who are now all set to debut in international cricket for India on Saturday, will be staking an early claim to fill the gap left by T20I retirements of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli after India won the T20 World Cup at Barbados last month.

“I think there is always pressure and expectations. But what I think Virat bhai and Rohit bhai have achieved, if I go to reach that thing, then it will be very difficult for me. Every player has his own goal, like where he wants to reach.”

“So there is a lot of pressure. If you want to reach where other people have reached, then you have more pressure. But what they have achieved or what they have done for India, there is no pressure in that thing, because they are both idols and legends of Indian cricket,” added Gill.

The right-handed batter also said his new-look team is just having the pressure of doing well in Zimbabwe. “In terms of what we want to achieve as a team, there is definitely pressure about it. I think there is pressure no matter what match you play, because if there would be no pressure playing in any kind of match or situation, then I don't think there is any point playing that match.”

“There is always pressure whenever you play because there is pressure for you to perform in every match or tournament that you play. So I don't think there is any pressure in terms of this being the match of a new cycle. But in terms of yes, we want to do well as a team, that is the pressure there for us.”

Apart from Abhishek, Riyan Parag, Dhruv Jurel, Tushar Deshpande, B. Sai Sudarshan and Harshit Rana (first two matches only) are the newbies in India’s T20I team to be coached by National Cricket Academy (NCA) head VVS Laxman.

“Yes, there is definitely a lot of excitement, because there are a lot of young players who will be playing for the first time. It is always exciting when you see new players coming and making their debut and doing well. So in terms of that, yes there is a lot of excitement in the team to be able to come here and do well,” said Gill.

"If you look at the team, it's a quite different team from the one that played in the World Cup. There are a lot of young players in the team, including myself. So, in terms of that, we just want to give the players experience and what it is like to play at the international level.”

“Because a lot of the players haven't played that many matches and some of the players haven't even made their debut. So that is our aim for the series, to give them more international exposure and experience,” added Gill on India’s objectives from the Zimbabwe series.

He also reckons conditions in Harare will be challenging for the Indian team and added they aren’t taking the Sikandar Raza-led Zimbabwe lightly.

“The conditions will be very challenging, as everyone is coming from different time zones. But I think it's the same challenge. We have been practicing here for two or three days. So, we are used to the conditions here, and some players had played here two years ago when we came here for one day. So, I think it will be a good series here,” he said.

“I think Zimbabwe have got a good T20 team. Even the last time when we played in the ODIs (in 2022), the last one day that we played went on to be quite a close one for us, and we know that it's going to be no different. The way Zimbabwe guys are going to come against us is going to be no different than any other nation, and that’s the challenge for us,” he added.

This will be the first time Gill is captaining India at the international level and he thinks learnings from being the skipper of Gujarat Titans in IPL 2024 will help him to tackle the challenges of leading in an international series in Harare, the place where he got himself into reckoning in the India ODI setup almost two years ago.

“I learned a lot of lessons when I captained my IPL team for the first time. I got to know a lot more things about myself and a lot more things about the leadership perspective. I felt most of the challenges that you face as a captain are more mental, like how you prepare the boys because everyone's got the skill set. It's about how you can give them the confidence to be able to deliver that skill set on the field,” he concluded.

--IANS

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