India Ireland 2018 Virat Kohli Rohit Sharma MS Dhoni Gary Wilson
India vs Ireland Getty Images (file photo)

India’s much-awaited long tour of the British Isles kick-starts with two T20 Internationals against Ireland, on June 27 and 29, both at Malahide. India have played Ireland only once in T20Is, at Trent Bridge in the 2009 World T20, and had won by 8 wickets. India and Ireland have also played 3 ODIs, and India have won all three. Under a fit Virat Kohli, India are looking forward to come at Ireland all guns blazing.

India’s last T20I outings were in Sri Lanka, where they won the Nidahas Trophy. While the victory was sealed by Dinesh Karthik with a last-ball six, India’s dominance in the tournament was much beyond that. They rested Kohli, MS Dhoni, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Jasprit Bumrah, and missed Kuldeep Yadav to an injury. All of them will definitely feature in the first T20I against Ireland.

Given Karthik’s recent form (inclusive of IPL), he will definitely feature in the Indian middle-order alongside Dhoni, though the senior man will don the big gloves. With Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma opening and Kohli to bat at three, India will be left with the No. 4 slot. Expect KL Rahul to fill up that spot, ahead of Suresh Raina.

Hardik Pandya will fill up the all-rounder’s spot, while Bhuvi and Bumrah will definitely be back. That leaves space for two bowlers. Kuldeep and Yuzvendra Chahal should both play unless the pitch resembles a green carpet. In that case one or both of IPL stars Umesh Yadav and Siddarth Kaul will come in.

India likely XI for 1st T20I: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal.

Ireland have made their Test debut this year; they are a competent ODI side; but they have rarely excelled in T20Is. They finished last in the triangular tournament in Netherlands earlier this month (that also featured Scotland), but a more telling statistic is the fact is that they are the 17th-ranked side out of the 17 teams eligible for T20I ranking, just below Oman. That is not good news.

Ireland need to regroup under Gary Wilson. Paul Stirling and Wilson himself did well in Netherlands. James Shannon may keep William Porterfield out again.

The strength of Ireland lies in their all-rounders: Kevin O’Brien, Stuart Thompson, and Simi Singh will definitely provide some challenge. George Dockrell has been the greatest bowler in Ireland’s T20I history, while a fit Boyd Rankin is always a threat.

Ireland likely XI for 1st T20I: Paul Stirling, James Shannon, Andy Balbirnie, Gary Wilson (c), Kevin O’Brien, Simi Singh, Stuart Thompson, Stuart Poynter (wk), Boyd Rankin, Peter Chase.

Predictions: Ireland are unlikely to provide serious challenge to third-ranked India, but for the same reasons, the pressure will be on India to perform. Ireland will be playing at home, and should draw motivation from their bursts of dominance in their maiden Test.