'Excitement' as Pandya prepares to lead India after success as IPL skipper

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There will be plenty of focus on Hardik Pandya as he bids to again display his captaincy skills in his first series as India skipper in Ireland.

Pandya has stepped in as captain for the two-match Twenty20 International series as Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer instead focus on the rearranged Test against England.

There is an opportunity for the 28-year-old all-rounder to impress across two matches India will expect to dominate, having won each of their three prior T20Is against Ireland. Against no team do India have a better 100 per cent winning rate (also three matches versus Afghanistan).

Pandya was captain of Gujarat Titans in the 2022 Indian Premier League, leading the franchise to the title in their debut season.

And former India opener WV Raman, who also coached the women's team, is looking forward to seeing Pandya in a leadership role at international level for the first time when the series begins on Sunday.

"There will be excitement in this series because Hardik Pandya is becoming the new captain of the Indian team," Raman told News24 Sports.

"The way he captained an IPL team raises everyone's expectations. His habit of taking responsibility was the best thing I found in the IPL.

"The expectation is that he will continue in the same way, will motivate everyone nicely."

Indeed, this could even be considered an audition for Pandya to take on the role over a longer period.

Raman added: "He did good captaincy for an IPL franchise, but you will have to see how he leads the Indian team, because here there is a selection committee.

"We will have to see what is their convictions, ideas and views after seeing his captaincy, so that they can make a decision based on that."

Opportunity knocks

Ireland have lost their past two T20Is against Test-playing sides, while India are on a three-match winning run away from home, so there may be the opportunity for the tourists to take a look at some of the fringe members of their squad.

Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh were both called up for the recently finished South Africa series, but neither made an appearance as India stuck with their first-choice bowling attack, having fallen 2-0 behind.

Although that decision paid off, as they recovered to draw 2-2, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar (45) and Avesh Khan (45) bowling more dot balls than any other players, Malik and Arshdeep will hope they are rewarded now for their patience.

Batters old and new

Rahul Tripathi is the latest player to be given a first call-up and will hope to impress with the bat, as he did during the IPL, scoring 413 runs for Sunrisers Hyderabad.

But Dinesh Karthik, the 37-year-old wicketkeeper-batter, is also in line for a key role once more.

The veteran had not played for his country since 2019 ahead of the South Africa series, but he scored a boundary once every 3.9 balls against the Proteas – a leading rate – and appears likely to deputise for Pant with the gloves while again showing off his batting talents ahead of the World Cup.

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