Throwing his weight behind power-hitter Sanju Samson in the build-up to India’s clash with New Zealand, former Indian opener Aakash Chopra has backed the wicketkeeper-batter to find a place in the playing XI for the curtain-raiser of the bilateral series. After registering an impressive win over New Zealand in T20Is, Team India will meet the hosts for a three-match One Day International (ODI) against the Black Caps on Friday.

Under the leadership of veteran opener Shikhar Dhawan, India will meet the Kane Williamson-led side in the 1st ODI at Eden Park. Sharing his views ahead of the series opener between India and New Zealand on his YouTube channel, former Indian opener Chopra opined that the visitors must include Samson in their playing XI. Interestingly, the former Indian cricketer and full-time pundit wants India to accommodate wicketkeepers Rishabh Pant and Samson in the playing XI for the series opener at Eden Park.

ALSO READ: ‘Sanju kidhar hai?’: Pant, Samson fans in war of words after Jaffer reveals his India XI for first ODI vs New Zealand

“Rishabh Pant is the vice-captain but where will he play if he plays? He should play, he is the vice-captain. Shreyas Iyer – whatever he might not do in T20s, whatever issues he might have against bouncers, the guy’s numbers in ODIs are extremely good. His first ODI century also came in New Zealand at Hamilton. So, he will play,” Chopra said.

Batting for Samson’s inclusion in the Indian playing XI, Chopra recalled the batting heroics of the star batter in the South Africa series. Samson had played a sublime knock of 86 off 63 balls in the 1st ODI against South Africa last month. Samson ended up smashing 118 runs in the 3-match ODI series against the Proteas.

“You see Shubman Gill opening alongside Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant doesn’t open in this team. He plays at a different number. He was not playing in the last series. (Poori Shrinkhla mein out he nahi huey they. Aisa lagta hai apun hi bhagwan hai – aise waali batting). Sanju was playing there and did an amazing job. In fact, he didn’t get out in the entire series. His numbers are phenomenal, so Sanju should play,” he added.

Aakash Chopra’s Indian playing XI for 1st ODI:

Shikhar Dhawan (C), Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh.

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