BCCI president Sourav Ganguly confirmed “it will be a different team” that will tour Sri Lanka in July with the potential for several new faces to receive a maiden Team India call up.
The biggest names in Indian Cricket, including Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, will battle it out in whites through the marquee five match Test Series in England, but a team of “white-ball specialists” will now travel to Sri Lanka for a bilateral series to play three ODIs and three T20s. The series could be an outstanding opportunity for some young rising stars of Indian Cricket to don the coveted blue jersey for the first time, as Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, KL Rahul and others are likely to miss out courtesy of preparations for the England Tests, post the World Test Championship (WTC) Final versus New Zealand. The selectors could turn towards an outstanding pool of copious IPL talent that have also come through the India A programme under Rahul Dravid, who many believe could take on his first assignment as India Coach too.
Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Yuzvendra Chahal and a few other big names missed out on the tour to England, and with the T20 World Cup slated for later this year, “The BCCI president is very keen that all our top players are match ready and since England doesn’t have a white ball leg, the month of July can be utilized well,” a BCCI source told PTI about why the tour was put in place.
With this in mind and with the large player pool at BCCI’s disposal, who could be in the running for this Indian “B” or should we say “white-ball-specialist” side in Sri Lanka. Let’s look at the options, which could present a golden opportunity for many to stake a claim for a more permanent spot:
Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer (currently recovering from injury), Prithvi Shaw, Sanju Samson, Suryakumar Yadav, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Manish Pandey, Ishan Kishan
Underdog picks: Ambati Rayudu
Shikhar Dhawan could be the mainstay in this side in the absence of Rohit & Virat and given his recent run of form AND his incredible numbers in ICC events, could form the experienced fulcrum in the batting. He could be joined at the top by the increasingly impressive, uncapped Devdutt Padikkal, who scored his first IPL century in 2021 or Prithvi Shaw, who has bounced back with record-breaking numbers in the Vijay Hazare Trophy before posting big numbers in IPL 2021 too, finishing as 4th highest run-getter at the time of postponement. It would be great to see Ruturaj Gaikwad get an opportunity with the Men in Blue with his poise and timing complementing the flair that the rest of this squad possesses.
The middle-order muddle might be a bit simpler to solve with the usual suspects, Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey and two keeper-batsmen Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson likely to slot straight in. We would love to see the inclusion of Ambati Rayudu, who perhaps should never have been dropped for the 2019 World Cup, but all the signs point to his time in Team India colours being done.
Krunal Pandya, Hardik Pandya, Rahul Tewatia, Vijay Shankar, Shivam Dube
Underdog pick: Harpreet Brar or Shahrukh Khan
While Ravindra Jadeja is assured a spot in every format currently, Krunal Pandya could be handed another opportunity, having moved down the pecking order, below Axar Patel of late. On the flip side, boy was it good to see Hardik Pandya bowl again! This has been the sentiment across many Indian cricket fans, but question marks still remain on the star all-rounders ability to sustain it over a few longer spells and across a series and this could be a great test of Hardik, the all-rounder. Shivam Dube & Vijay Shankar were Virat Kohli’s go-to picks in Hardik’s absence, however both have failed to grab headlines in International cricket and this series could throw one or both of them a lifeline. Rahul Tewatia took IPL 2020 by storm and could be an exciting pick in the middle order and with the ball in Sri Lanka too (we know Graeme Swann will be watching somewhere). Finally, our left-field picks would have to be young Shahrukh Khan & Harpreet Brar who produced a cameo with the bat and a match-winning spell against Royal Challengers Bangalore this IPL including the wickets of ABD, Maxwell and Kohli. Yes, it’s unfair to go off one encounter but there are enough signs that the left-arm spinner can produce the goods with the ball in hand. SRK, the cricketer meanwhile impressed with his hard-hitting capabilities from ball one and could be one to watch for the future.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, Harshal Patel, Chetan Sakariya, Jaydev Unadkat, T Natarajan (currently injured)
Varun Chakravarthy, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Rahul Chahar
Underdog pick: Ravi Bishnoi
Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s absence from the England tour automatically makes him the leader of this exciting line up of fast bowlers, with experience in the form of potential new ball partner Deepak Chahar and Navdeep Saini, who has been surpassed by Mohd. Siraj for both RCB & Team India and needs a spark of confidence under his belt at this stage of his career. Unadkat isn’t a popular pick but had a record 67 wickets in Saurashtra’s Ranji Trophy winning campaign and could be rewarded for it. Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan and young Chetan Sakariya produced some of the best spells of IPL 2021 and with Avesh given a ticket to England, we might see the other two names on the flight to Sri Lanka.
As far as the spinners go, it’s a question of whether Varun Chakravarthy can finally pull the wool over his biggest nemesis, “the fitness test”, as he would be an incredibly exciting selection for Team India going forward. It also offers India a bit more depth given that Kul-Cha’s (Kuldeep & Chahal) stock has dropped over time. We would love to see Ravi Bishnoi & Rahul Chahar, both be given a run instead with steady performances over time now, having displayed the ability to soak up pressure at the highest level and deliver when it matters.
Rahul Chahar & Varun CV to be my first choice picks alongside Bhuvi, Deepak Chahar and Harshal Patel.
The tour to Sri Lanka is an opportunity for these young men to prove they are more than a flash in the pan and turn a “B” tour into an “A” Team spot come the T20 World Cup at the end of the year, something that millions of cricketers dream of and only select few realise along the way.