India will face a formidable New Zealand team that recently secured an impressive ODI series victory against Pakistan on their home soil, following the conclusion of the ODI series against Sri Lanka. The Black Caps will likely pose a challenging threat to Rohit Sharma and his team with their talented players. However, the Men in Blue will aim to start their journey with a win when they face New Zealand in the first ODI at Hyderabad.
In this series, India will be without their key players KL Rahul and Axar Patel, who have recently given outstanding performances. Their absence provides an opportunity for other players to showcase their abilities. However, some players may not gain the trust of the team management and be left out of the playing XI.
Here are three Indian players who may be sitting on the bench during the three-match ODI series against New Zealand.
Number 1. Shahbaz Ahmed
India will be without the services of Axar Patel in the upcoming ODI series against New Zealand, as he will not participate in the series due to family commitments. In his absence, the team management has placed their trust in Bengal all-rounder Shahbaz Ahmed, who played three games for India last year.
Ahmed made his international debut against South Africa in an ODI match in Ranchi in October 2022, in his maiden ODI series, he displayed his bowling skills in a couple of matches, taking three wickets in two matches with an economy rate of 5.05.
In the upcoming ODI series against New Zealand, Ahmed will hope to be included in the playing XI, but that may not happen as captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid may opt for the experienced Washington Sundar, meaning Ahmed could be seen warming the bench during the competition.
Number 2. KS Bharat
KS Bharat will join the Indian team for the three-match bilateral ODI series against New Zealand as an extra wicket-keeper in the absence of KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant. The 29-year-old batter is well-known in first-class cricket for his impressive batting numbers for Andhra Pradesh.
In 64 List A matches, he has scored 1,950 runs with six centuries at a strike rate of 76.98. These batting numbers caught the attention of the selectors, who have given him a chance to be part of the 16-man squad for the 3-match ODI series against the Black Caps.
However, Bharat may not make it to the playing XI of India as the team management may consider Ishan Kishan to be a more reliable option to fill the role of the wicket-keeper batter. Last year, Kishan played a historical double-hundred knock against Bangladesh at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chattogram.
Number 3. Shardul Thakur
Recently, Shardul Thakur has not performed well for the Indian team with both bat and ball. In the Bangladesh series, he struggled, scoring only 12 runs and taking four wickets in three ODIs. Additionally, during the New Zealand tour, he underperformed with the ball in the first ODI in Auckland, taking only one wicket and giving up 63 runs in nine overs.
In the past, Thakur has contributed to the national team with his fearless playing style. In the upcoming three-match ODI series against the Black Caps, he will look forward to returning to his old form and showcasing his all-round capabilities.
However, the presence of star all-rounder Hardik Pandya could limit his chances of making it to the playing XI. Another factor that could prevent his inclusion in the playing XI is his redundancy in the team. With the top form of pacers (Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umran Malik, and Hardik Pandya), it can be said that Thakur might not be needed in the playing XI unless any of these bowlers perform poorly or suffer an injury.