Padikkal & Harshal Among Likely India Debutants on Sri Lanka Tour
While captaincy for SL tour is a talking point, the tour allows for new faces to make their mark in India colours.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused mayhem in terms of scheduling of cricket matches and while England have said they are open to fielding two different teams based on formats, India have been forced into the same.
Most of India’s best cricketers are preparing to leave for England where they will be playing the World Test Championship final against New Zealand and then play 5 Tests against England. Meanwhile, India is also scheduled to play Sri Lanka in July in 6 white ball matches.
Given quarantine regulations that have arisen from the pandemic, the likes of Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, Rohit Sharma – all of whom will be in England for red-ball cricket matches, will not travel to Sri Lanka, allowing the team to test out their bench strength. Seniors like Hardik Pandya and Yuzvendra Chahal will look to get themselves back to form in SL, having been left out of the contingent for England.
While captaincy for the team that goes to SL is one of the talking points, the tour also opens the door for new faces to make their mark in the India colours. The likes of Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, and Harshal Patel, who are coming off very impressive IPL campaigns, having been knocking on the selectors’ door and will be keen to make an impression at the first possible chance.
Who Are the Most Likely Players to Make Their India Debut in Sri Lanka?
Devdutt Padikkal – Top Order Batter
One of the many options for the selectors in the openers’ slot for the series, Karnataka’s Devdutt Padikkal has been in fine form, in recent months and even before the pandemic. The RCB opener has caught the eye of experts with some exquisite performances in the IPL.
Padikkal, used to topping the run scoring charts domestically, brought that form to the IPL last season and finished as RCB’s highest scorer. Soon after, he took the Vijay Hazare Trophy by storm, becoming the first Indian batter to score four consecutive centuries in List A cricket.
The stylish opener carried on the form into the IPL, where he joined the squad late after recovering from COVID-19, scoring 195 runs in 6 games, including an unbeaten 101 against Rajasthan Royals.
Ruturaj Gaikwad – Top Order Batter
Another fluent top order batter waiting in the wings, Gaikwad has been one of the brightest players for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL this year and in the last phase in 2020.
The right hander, who finished the season well in IPL 2020 even as CSK had a dismal campaign, however, was not in the best of form for Maharashtra domestically.
Once he was back in the yellow of CSK, Gaikwad picked up the pace after a few low scores. In 7 games for CSK, Gaikwad registered a couple of commanding half centuries against Sunrisers and KKR, while getting a good start against RCB.
Harshal Patel – Death Overs Specialist
One of Virat Kohli’s most potent weapons in the death overs with the ball, Harshal Patel was instrumental part of the RCB success story in the incomplete IPL 2021. Not exactly the youngest player on the block, Harshal has spent a few seasons playing in the IPL, but has only got experts to sit up and take note this season with 17 wickets from 7 games.
A medium pacer with excellent control on variations, Harshal is the first bowler to take a 5-wicket haul against Mumbai Indians in the IPL.
While he has not featured in the India conversation yet, Harshal, who was the highest wicket-taker in the IPL when it was brought to a halt, has definitely made his mark with his performances in the IPL.
Will that be enough to catapult him into the Indian team? Can he produce the same kind of performances at the highest levels? These will be some of the aspects that selectors will ponder about before they decide on the 30-year-old’s fate.
Chetan Sakariya – Left-Arm Medium Pacer
One of the most impressive youngsters in IPL 2021, Sakariya stepped up for the Rajasthan Royals, whose bowling department took a major blow in the absence of Jofra Archer and then an injury to Ben Stokes.
He has the skills to make the ball move both ways in the air, has both back-of-the-hand and off-cutter slower ones, and the stomach for a fight. He isn't rapid in the air but has shown that he has the bowling smarts to pick the right options.
While he did not get too many chances with a curtailed season, Sakariya was tough to get a run off, even when KL Rahul was going great guns in a game that saw more than 400 runs being scored in 40 overs. Not just Rahul, the likes of AB de Villiers, Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell too found it tough to get going against the left-armer.
Currently high on confidence in terms of his bowling, a trip to Sri Lanka is likely to help Sakariya further.
Varun Chakravarthy – Spinner
A key part of the KKR bowling set-up, Varun Chakravarthy has been foxing batters with relative ease in the IPL for a while now. He was all set for his maiden stint with the national team in Australia before fitness issues held him back.
Varun, who has very much been part of the India team conversation in recent months, has had his fair share of troubles with injury and will be keen to impress the decision makers at every possible chance.
If fit enough, Varun adds wicket taking ability and control to the bowling attack, as has been seen a fair few times in the KKR colours.
In IPL, in the last two seasons, Varun has been a mainstay for KKR. He picked 17 wickets in UAE and had bagged 7 scalps in the curtailed 2021 season.
With the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav finding it tough to match their own high standards, the Sri Lanka tour would represent the Tamil Nadu man with a chance to make his case for selection, especially a few months before the T20 World Cup.
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