India were all set to take their first step towards a settled playing XI in T20Is, one they had earned en route to their ODI series win against Australia. With Shikhar Dhawan back in form, the top-three were a class apart, once again, and the middle-order had a new responsible and sturdy shoulder in KL Rahul. And the batting setup perfectly allowed skipper Virat Kohli to use his preferred ploy of six bowling options, although Hardik Pandya is yet to fully recover from his recurring injuries. But alas! With Dhawan picking up a fresh shoulder injury that ruled him out of the T20I and the ODI series, the team management has been pushed back to the drawing board to look at alternatives for their playing XI, one which could be suitable for New Zealand conditions. Dhawan had tumbled upon his left shoulder while making an effort to stop a cover drive from Australian skipper Aaron Finch in the third ODI and immediately left the field clutching his shoulder. He later did not come out to bat, as he was taken to the hospital for scans and was spotted in the dressing room with his arm sling. On Tuesday morning, the evening after the Indian team had departed for the New Zealand tour, Dhawan was ruled out owing to his injury. The tour begins from January 24 onwards with the crucial five-game T20I series followed by three ODIs. With Dhawan out, on Tuesday the All-India Senior Selection Committee named his replacement for the T20I and ODI series in New Zealand. While Sanju Samson replaces Dhawan for the five-game T20I series, Prithvi Shaw has been called up for the ODIs. India will have to fall back to experimentation mode, one which may in fact prove handy given the left-hander becoming prone to injuries. First possibility – Rahul returns to the opening spot: India can fall back to their old tactic of playing Rahul as the opener when either one between Dhawan or Rohit Sharma is absent. The 25-year-old has already proven his versatility in the batting order while also impressively performing as a wicketkeeper. Since the start of 2019, Rahul has played 23 limited-overs matches for India as an opener and he averages 42.41 with two centuries and seven half-centuries while also having a false-shot percentage of around 10.6 (only behind Kohli) – well ahead of Dhawan’s numbers. Moreover, Rahul-Rohit partnership at the top, since 2019, averages 79.66 across 15 matches in limited-overs cricket, with six century-stands.