Gill named captain for Zimbabwe tour; Abhishek, Nitish, Riyan, Deshpande earn maiden India call-up

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New Delhi, June 24 (IANS) Abhishek Sharma, Nitish Reddy, Riyan Parag, and Tushar Deshpande have earned maiden call-ups to the Indian team, to be led by Shubman Gill, for the five-match T20I tour of Zimbabwe, scheduled from July 6-14 at the Harare Sports Club.  

Impressive performances in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 for their respective franchises have propelled Abhishek, Nitish Reddy, Riyan and Tushar to be included in the Indian team for the first time. Wicketkeeper-batter Dhruv Jurel has been included in India’s T20I squad for the first time after playing three Tests for India against England in the 4-1 series triumph earlier this year,

In IPL 2024, Jurel amassed 195 runs in 11 innings while playing for Rajasthan Royals. Yashasvi Jaiswal and Sanju Samson, currently with India’s squad for the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup and yet to get a game in the competition, also find themselves in the new-look India squad for the Zimbabwe tour.

Gill, Rinku Singh, Khaleel Ahmed, and Avesh Khan -- travelling reserves for India in the ongoing T20 World Cup, have been included, and so have Washington Sundar, Ravi Bishnoi, and Mukesh Kumar. The tour of Zimbabwe serves as Gill’s first major leadership assignment at the international level after being in charge of Gujarat Titans in IPL 2024, which ended with the 2022 champions finishing in ninth place.

Representing Andhra in domestic cricket, Nitish Reddy emerged as a breakout star for Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 2024, where he impressed with his big-hitting ability. He amassed 303 runs in 13 innings, including two fifties at an average of 33.67 and a strike rate of 143 for the SRH, who became IPL 2024 runners-up.

He also picked three wickets with his seam bowling, as Nitish took home the award for Best Emerging Player in the IPL 2024 season. IANS had reported on June 19 that Nitish was in consideration for the Zimbabwe tour squad.

Playing for SRH in IPL 2024, left-handed batting all-rounder Abhishek, a member of India’s 2018 U19 World Cup triumph alongside Gill, recorded the fastest half-century in the franchise’s history in just 16 deliveries when he hit one against Mumbai Indians.

He also struck 42 sixes, the most by any batter in IPL 2024, as he played a pivotal role in forming a lethal opening partnership with Travis Head at the top. In SRH finishing as IPL 2024 runners-up, Abhishek amassed 484 runs in 16 innings, including hitting three half-centuries.

Hailing from Amritsar in Punjab and being mentored by Yuvraj Singh as well as former SRH head coach Brian Lara, Abhishek was also the Player of the Tournament in Punjab’s triumph in the 2023/24 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, for amassing 485 runs in ten innings in the competition.

On the other hand, right-handed batting all-rounder Parag had his coming-of-the-age season in IPL 2024 for Rajasthan Royals, amassing 573 runs in 14 innings as a middle-order batter and striking 33 sixes while hitting four fifties. Fast-bowler Deshpande, meanwhile, picked 17 wickets in 13 games for Chennai Super Kings, in IPL 2024.

Since 2010, India’s tours of Zimbabwe have seen many youngsters being picked for them to be tested and eased into the international scene. For next month’s tour of Zimbabwe, the same procedure is set to be followed, as India aim to build a team for the 2026 Men’s T20 World Cup, which they will be jointly hosting alongside Sri Lanka.

India’s tour of Zimbabwe will take place after the completion of the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup, which is ending with the final at Kensington Oval in Barbados on June 29. This will be the fourth time that Zimbabwe will host India in a bilateral men’s T20I series, having previously faced off in 2010, 2015, and 2016 respectively.

India’s squad for T20I series against Zimbabwe: Shubman Gill (Captain), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Abhishek Sharma, Rinku Singh, Sanju Samson (WK), Dhruv Jurel (WK), Nitish Reddy, Riyan Parag, Washington Sundar, Ravi Bishnoi, Avesh Khan, Khaleel Ahmed, Mukesh Kumar, Tushar Deshpande.