India’s Probable Squad for Limited-Overs Tour to Sri Lanka
A second-string Indian side is slated to play three ODIs followed by three T20s in the island nation.
A long-serving twelfth man is full of the joys of spring when he realises that a senior pro is going to be rested for a dead rubber or an upcoming tour of lesser consequence. It is, at long last, his chance to step up and show the world what he’s made of.
Now imagine the sheer waves of ecstasy rippling through India’s peripheral pool of players, as they come to know that a second-string team comprising white-ball specialists will feature in the upcoming series in Sri Lanka in the absence of the primary contingent, which, in the meantime, will be preparing for a five-Test series in England. It’s nothing short of a jackpot for the fringe players, who have a golden opportunity on their hands to stake claim for a berth in the T20 World Cup squad.
India is slated to play three ODIs followed by three T20s in the island nation. Their bench strength is second to none and thus, it will be a happy headache for the selectors to cherry-pick the touring party for Sri Lanka. The Quint narrows down on 20 of the strongest contenders likely to make the cut:
Openers: Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, And Devdutt Padikkal
Shikhar Dhawan is the frontrunner in the captaincy race – thanks to the wealth of leadership experience having led his home state Delhi in the domestic circuit, including the Ranji Trophy. Fresh off a productive IPL, the ace opener will be the fulcrum of India’s batting while mainstays Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma are away on England duty.
Dhawan will have an able ally in Prithvi Shaw, who has put behind the ignominy of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to make a splash in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, as he belted a whopping 857 runs at a stupendous average of 165.40, including three hundreds and a double ton, to power Mumbai to title victory.
There will be healthy competition between Shaw and uncapped Devdutt Padikkal as both the precociously talented youngsters are in the running to be Dhawan’s opening partner. The prodigy from Karnataka had a scarcely believable run of 52, 97, 152, 126*, 145*, 101, and 64 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and planted the icing on the cake with an elegant ton against Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2021.
The limited-overs tour is more of a breeding hub for the T20 WC and so the rotation policy will come into the picture, but initially, the desired preference of a left-right opening combination might see Shaw piping Padikkal to the post.
Middle-Order: Sanju Samson, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, And Manish Pandey
Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan pounced on their opportunities during the T20I series against England and would be eyeing a longer rope this time around. Their IPL 2021 campaigns weren’t the most fruitful, with Yadav managing a meagre 173 runs in 7 innings, while Kishan was relegated to the bench after a slew of pedestrian scores. The explosive Mumbai Indians duo will be hoping for a quick turnaround as strong showings on the SL tour would all but cement their place in the T20 WC squad.
Talking about the marquee event, the series against SL will be the last resort for Sanju Samson to strive for a middle-order berth. It is a congested space right now with Yadav and Kishan having thrown their hats in the fray, but Samson should be given a fair crack as he is an X-factor player who can turn games on its head. Like he very nearly did versus Punjab Kings, blazing his way to 119 off 63 balls in pursuit of a titanic 222. Although Samson would do well to infuse the elixir of consistency into his raw, unbridled potential if he harbours dreams as ambitious as that of a T20 WC stint. Samson and Kishan will also be the two wicket-keeping options.
Manish Pandey’s career is falling off the rails and he couldn’t have asked for a better platform to try and stabilise it. His lethargic strike rates in the IPL 2021 made matters worse as a humongous question mark looms over his viability in the shortest format. Pandey has done just enough in the past to cling on to his position, at least in the ODIs, but he must fire before it's too late. The clock is ticking.
All-Rounders: Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, And Deepak Hooda
India’s lower order looks in fine fettle with Hardik and Krunal Pandya assuming the finishing duties. The elder brother’s fifty against England was the fastest on debut ever in an ODI match, coming from 26 balls. Leg-spinning all-rounder Rahul Tewatia was handed his maiden national call-up ahead of the T20I series against England but he flunked the fitness test along with Varun Chakravarthy. It remains to be seen what is the selectors’ stance on their future as India doesn’t cut any slack whatsoever in the fitness department.
Moreover, the selection panel will have to deliberate upon Shivam Dube’s candidacy. The stout southpaw has punched well below his weight, with an inferior 105 runs in 9 T20I innings. Dube could be swapped with Deepak Hooda, the utility cricketer from Baroda, who thumped the fastest fifty by an uncapped Indian player in IPL history. It was a six-smashing fest that forced one and all to sit up and take notice. Hooda can roll his arm over to unleash some tight off-spin too and offers an extra bowling option in case either of the key bowlers is having an off day.
Spinners: Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, And Rahul Chahar
In the past couple of years, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have looked a pale shadow of their former selves. While Kuldeep has barely made it to the team sheet, both for India and the Kolkata Knight Riders, inconsistency has started to seep into Chahal’s craft. However, a Kul-Cha reunion is on the cards in Sri Lanka, where the focus will be on regaining their mantle as the undisputed leaders of the spin pack.
Rahul Chahar and Varun Chakravarthy are next in line for selection. The young leggie has displayed nerves of steel in crunch moments and has a happy knack of picking wickets. Rushed in as a replacement for Chakravarthy, Chahar chipped in with the big wickets of Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan in the 4th T20I against England.
Chakravarthy, on the other hand, has made life difficult for dashers with his mystery spin but his selection hinges a lot on how he fares on fitness grounds. In the absence of Washington Sundar, he will be India’s second finger-spinning tweaker apart from Krunal. Chakravarthy was named in the Indian T20 roster for the Australia tour and then recently at home against England but came a cropper in the fitness tests on both occasions. Will it be third time lucky for the spin wizard? Time will tell.
Fast Bowlers: Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Jaydev Unadkat, Khaleel Ahmed, Chetan Sakariya, And Harshal Patel
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Deepak Chahar will share the new ball while Navdeep Saini will be called upon as one change. Chahar is a force to be reckoned with, especially in the powerplay phase, wherein his lateral movement makes him a fearsome proposition to face. Saini would be raring to go as well, having warmed the bench in the IPL 2021 as Mohammed Siraj got the captain’s vote time and again.
Since T Natarajan is on the mend after undergoing a knee surgery, the selectors could consider the left-arm pairing of Jaydev Unadkat and Khaleel Ahmed. Unadkat must be given the due of his prolific 2019-20 Ranji Trophy season, where he snared a hefty 67 wickets to facilitate Saurashtra's historic win.
If the selectors are in the mood to experiment, there are two promising wild cards in the uncapped Harshal Patel and Chetan Sakariya who were among the best bowlers at the halfway stage this IPL. Discounting the treatment meted out by Ravindra Jadeja, Patel was the star of the show, nabbing 17 wickets in 7 games, including a fifer against MI. Sakariya thinks on his feet and uses his limited resources to maximum advantage. He is a young gun who can be put to the test once before Natarajan returns to the fold.
India’s Predicted Squad: Shikhar Dhawan (C), Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Sanju Samson (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan (wk), Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Deepak Hooda, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Rahul Chahar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Jaydev Unadkat, Khaleel Ahmed, Chetan Sakariya, Harshal Patel
Note: Shreyas Iyer and T Natarajan have not been taken into account because they are recovering from shoulder and knee surgery, respectively.
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