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Middle order the focus in India's Irish reunion

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Chopra: Rohit should bat at No. 4 in T20Is (3:45)

Aakash Chopra on India's opening combination, middle order conundrum, MS Dhoni's batting position and more (3:45)

Big Picture

The last time India toured Ireland, Rohit Sharma was straight out of the Under-19s, and was handed an ODI debut under Rahul Dravid's captaincy. MS Dhoni had not led India yet. Dinesh Karthik was the only other player from the current group who was around then. Eleven years on, Rohit returns to the venue of his debut as a limited-overs stalwart, Karthik has written yet another chapter in a stop-start career, and Dhoni is the senior-most member of the squad.

The occasion won't be quite as historic as Ireland's previous international game played here, but Malahide's Village is still sold out for the two T20Is.

This is India's first T20I assignment since the Nidahas Trophy in March, and the squad doesn't have any major surprises. Virat Kohli, who was earlier in doubt for the series opener because of a stint with Surrey, returns to lead against a side that wants to "show them what we are about". If Ireland's debut Test against Pakistan is any example, those are not hollow words.

"Anyone can beat anyone else and that's the beauty of sport and cricket," Ireland captain Gary Wilson said. "We have had some great results against England in Bengaluru and against Pakistan in the Caribbean. So we will go in with the belief that we can turn them over."

They are set to unleash fast bowler Joshua Little - who can bowl in excess of 85mph - on India's batsmen, while their batting quartet of Paul Stirling, Simi Singh, Andy Balbirnie and Kevin O' Brien will be key in their quest to put up tall scores on a small ground. Can they upset the T20 superstars?

Form guide

Ireland TWLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
India WWWWL

In the spotlight

Since his return to the team in February 2018, Suresh Raina has averaged just 21.33. With the battle for the No. 4 spot in the team heating up, the 31-year-old will need to step his game up if he wishes to remain in India's plans. He could face competition from KL Rahul, who is coming off a run-glut in the IPL.

Simi Singh, the allrounder with roots in India, has developed into a potent weapon for Ireland. Starting off as a bowler, Simi has worked his way up the Irish batting order and he averages 32 with a strike-rate of 150 in T20Is. With the ball, he averages only 17.50 with an economy of 6.63. He could lend balance to the Ireland line-up.

Teams news

William Porterfield was rested for the two T20s against Scotland but he's expected to return for this series. That could mean time on the bench for James Shannon. Among the bowlers, Ireland may opt for Andy McBrine in the place of Stuart Thompson, but that decision may hinge on overhead conditions on match day.

Ireland (probable) 1 Paul Stirling, 2 William Porterfield, 3 Andy Balbirnie, 4 Simi Singh, 5 Gary Wilson (capt), 6 Kevin O'Brien, 7 Stuart Thompson, 8 Stuart Poynter (wk), 9 George Dockrell, 10 Boyd Rankin, 11 Joshua Little

There are two big questions that India need to address. First, the easier one: play the extra spinner in Yuzvendra Chahal, or opt for a three-man pace attack with Umesh Yadav who hasn't played T20Is since 2012? Remember, he's been in cracking form in the IPL for Royal Challengers Bangalore. The other one is much bigger: who among Rahul, Manish Pandey, Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik should they leave out? There's also an injury cloud over Washington Sundar, who limped out of training after turning his ankle on a football.

India (probable) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Suresh Raina/KL Rahul/Manish Pandey, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Dinesh Karthik, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal/Umesh Yadav, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Pitch and conditions

For a change, the local weather forecast is clear, but you have to be brave to trust it.

The ground is small and the surface is likely to be batsman-friendly (it will be brave to prepare a spicy deck for a game that could bring Cricket Ireland more money than any other series they'll host in the near future). Expect batsmen from both sides to have fun then.

Stats and trivia

  • These team's only T20I meet-up - at the 2009 T20 World Cup - went in India's favour. Gary Wilson, Kevin O'Brien and William Porterfield were part of that Ireland defeat.

  • It will be the first time Malahide will be a hosting a T20I fixture between two Full Members.

Quotes

"They are a very fine T20 side, but they have to bat and we have to bowl. If we bowl our best, they have to still play that - no matter if it is Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma."
Ireland captain Gary Wilson has a simple mantra on match eve