A new-look Team India took the field in the shortest format of the game when the year began. The side was led by Hardik Pandya and senior players like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and KL Rahul remained absent from the squad. The same continued in India’s second T20I of the series against New Zealand later in January, as Hardik continued to lead a relatively young side in the format. The continual absences – particularly of Rohit and Kohli – have raised concerns over their future in T20Is.

The two are currently India’s highest run-getters in the format, with Kohli being the only batter in the world to score over 4,000 runs in T20Is. Both, however, haven’t played for the country since the T20 World Cup last year, where the side was knocked out in the semi-finals by eventual champions England.

When asked about the duo’s future, India head coach Rahul Dravid stated that certain players are given priority on workload management, given India will host the ODI World Cup later this year. “There are certain priorities we need to give to certain white-ball tournaments. So the priority after last year’s T20 World Cup has been these six games (ODIs against Sri Lanka and New Zealand) and Virat has played all these six games and he will get a bit of a break along with Rohit,” Dravid had said.

However, former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif believes India would need at least one of Rohit and Kohli in the shortest format as well, insisting that the chances of India reaching the final of next year’s T20 World Cup look minimal with the young squad.

“You might get a replacement for KL Rahul but it won’t be that easy to find replacements for seasoned players (like Kohli and Rohit). Yes, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw, and Ishan Kishan might take their places in the future. But these are similar players with similar experiences, playing at the same time. Can these players take you to the T20 World Cup final?

“Gill, Shaw, Tripathi, Hooda, Ishan… can these players take you to the final? In yesterday’s match (1st T20I vs NZ), there was a problem when they didn’t have a senior player. If they had a senior player, he could’ve taken them past the finishing line. So, Hardik Pandya and Rahul Dravid might have to consider bringing at least one of the two (Rohit and Kohli) if not both in the mix,” Latif said on his official YouTube channel.

Neither of the two players has made an official statement on their T20I future so far. The duo will return to action next month when India takes on Australia in a four-match Test series.