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IANS

With the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) selection committee set to announce the squad for the five-match T20I series against South Africa set to begin on June 9, there is speculation that all-rounder Hardik Pandya could lead a new-look side, as several key players will most likely be rested.

Pandya has been in smashing form in IPL 2022, guiding Gujarat Titans to the top of the table and contributing robustly with the bat and ball. With his back injury, which prevented him from playing most of last year, now history, the 28-year-old Pandya looks set to ride on his form to led the side for the series beginning at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi on June 9.

With batting stalwart Virat Kohli indicating that he wants to take a break from cricket and the selectors wanting to give several seniors, such as all-format skipper Rohit Sharma, wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant and pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah, among others, a break after non-stop IPL action, it could be a completely different side that could take on the Proteas.

The selectors could well reward good performers in the IPL to see how they fare on national duty and also check their progress in a crucial year, which also has the ICC Men's T20 World Cup in Australia in October-November.

Shikhar Dhawan, who had captained India's 'second' side for the white-ball tour of Sri Lanka last year, could be the choice for opening the batting against the Proteas after his superb performance with the bat in the IPL for Punjab Kings. He scored 400-plus runs in 13 games, including three half-centuries that also included an unbeaten 88 at the top of the order.

Besides, the other cricketers that could likely be in the squad are Ishan Kishan, who despite his form being iffy for Mumbai Indians, might be included because of his utility at the top of the order and the fact that he is a wicketkeeper-batter, though with Dinesh Karthik too in sublime form with the bat for RCB, it'll remain to be seen who will be India's glovesman in the series.

Suryakumar Yadav, if fit, may make the squad, while Rahul Tewatia could get the role of the finisher in the side after his exploits for Gujarat Titans.

The other players that could be part of the squad include Sanju Samson, Lucknow Super Giants' Deepak Hooda, Washington Sundar, Krunal Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, spinner Kuldeep Yadav, pacer Harshal Patel and young tearaway bowler Umran Malik.

There could be a toss-up between pacer Arshdeep Singh and Lucknow Super Giants' left-arm quick Mohsin Khan, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar could get a spot in the squad because of his utility and experience in the death overs. Also, Avesh Khan is likely to make the squad, given his form in IPL 2022.

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