Shubman Gill reveals new opening partner for the first T20I against Zimbabwe. It is not Ruturaj Gaikwad

India captain Shubman Gill for the five-match T20I tour of Zimbabwe has confirmed that he will open the batting with his Punjab statemate Abhishek Sharma while Ruturaj Gaikwad will bat at number three in the series opener at 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 T20I against Zimbabwe marks the start of a new two-year journey for the reigning world champions in the shortest format. “Abhishek will open with me and Ruturaj will play at number three. Rohit bhai and Virat bhai opened in the World Cup and I also open (the innings) in T20s. So, I think I would like to open in T20s,” Gill said at the pre-match press conference.

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

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

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

The right-handed batsman also said that there is pressure on his new team to perform well in Zimbabwe. “There is definitely pressure in terms of what we want to achieve as a team. I think no matter what match you play, there is pressure, because if there is no pressure in playing any kind of match or situation, then I don't think there is any point in playing that match.”

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

Apart from Abhishek, Riyan Parag, Dhruv Jurel, Tushar Deshpande, B. Sai Sudharsan and Harshit Rana (first two matches only) are the new players in India's T20 squad, which will be coached by National Cricket Academy (NCA) head VVS Laxman.

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

“If you look at the team, it is very different from the one that played in the World Cup. There are many young players in the team, including me. So, we want to give experience to the players and teach them what it is like to play at the international level.”

Gill spoke about India's goals in the Zimbabwe series, “Because a lot of players haven't played too many matches and some players haven't even made their debut. So our goal for this series is to give them as much international exposure and experience as possible.”

He also said that the conditions in Harare would be challenging for the Indian team and added that they are not taking the Sikandar Raza-led Zimbabwe lightly.

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

He said, “I think Zimbabwe has a good T20 team. Even the last time we played ODIs (in 2022), the last ODI we played was very close for us and we know this one is not going to be different. The way Zimbabwean players are going to play against us will not be different from any other country and that is the challenge for us.”

This will be the first time Gill will captain India at the international level and he believes the learnings from leading Gujarat Titans in IPL 2024 will help him deal with the challenges of leading in an international series in Harare, the same venue where he broke into India’s ODI squad almost two years ago.

He said, “I learnt a lot when I captained my IPL team for the first time. I learnt a lot about myself and my approach to leadership. I felt most of the challenges you face as a captain are mental, like how you prepare the boys because everyone has a skill set. It's about how you can give them the confidence to be able to deliver that skill set on the field.”

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