Possible India cricket players for the tour of Sri Lanka
Indian cricket and BCCI faced a setback in recent times as the increasing cases of COVID second wave impacted the IPL, and it had to stop midway as some of the players from various franchises tested positive. The board has not yet identified a window or an alternate venue for the rest of the IPL and whether IPL season 14 will be complete or not is still not clear. One big reason for that would be the busy schedule of the Indian cricket team.
What’s next for the Indian cricket team?
The recent quarantine protocols also mean that teams are forced to travel with a bigger squad and keep gaps in schedule to maintain proper isolation after reaching a new country. The Indian team will be on a long tour of England to play the final of the World Test Championship in June, followed by a five-test series against England starting in August. However, most of the team members will stay in the UK during July as travelling back to India will not make sense due to the current quarantine rules, which will ensure that they have to immediately take a flight back to the UK to keep enough days in hand before the start of the test series.
BCCI has also announced a limited over series against Sri Lanka to be played in Sri Lanka against the hosts. The series will include three ODIs and three T20Is and will be played in July. It is almost certain that none of the players who are part of the England-bound squad will take part in this series, and the selectors have to select a second-string side to compete in this series. They will have some options as quite a few youngsters have impressed the critics in recent times in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Vijay Hazare Trophy, and in the first half of IPL. Here is an analysis of some of the potential squad members for this team.
The bunch of batters
Shreyas Iyer would have been a perfect choice to lead this team, but his recent shoulder injury meant that he missed the IPL and may not fit in time to tour Sri Lanka. Even if he is fit, making him the captain without any match practice will be less likely. In Iyer’s absence, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Hardik Pandya will be the most experienced players in this squad, and any of these three players can be selected as captain. Another sure option would be KL Rahul. However, Rahul is currently recovering from surgery, and if he is declared not fit for the England tour but fit for this series in July, then only he can be considered.
In batting, Prithvi Shaw and Surya Kumar Yadav are two confirmed names as the duo is in impressive form. Shaw had made great return to form after a terrible 2020 and after his heroics in VHT and IPL is sure to get the openers slot along with Dhawan. Similarly, Yadav should bat in the important number three position in both ODIs and T20s. They will also have options like Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson to bat in the middle order. The dup can also play the role of wicketkeepers in the squad. Some of the top order backup options will be Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, and Nitish Rana. Padikkal is the front runner after record-breaking VHT and a solid IPL, but Ruturaj will also be a strong contender. Dinesh Karthik may also return as a wicketkeeper option to add some experience to the squad.
Hardik and his brother Krunal and Shivam Dube, and Vijay Shankar will be the main contenders for the all-rounder role. Even Rahul Tewatia, who was also part of the Indian squad against England, may continue keeping in mind the spin-friendly conditions in Sri Lanka. Shahbaz Ahmed is another spin all-rounder option. He also has a very good domestic record and was regular for Royal Challengers Bangalore in this IPL.
The bowling unit
Bhuvneshwar Kumar will lead the fast bowling pack for India. It is a great testament to India’s bench strength that even after picking up eight fast bowlers for England tour (six in the squad and two back-ups) they still have some handy seam bowling options like Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, and Sandeep Sharma. Jaydev Unadakat is also another left-arm fast bowling option with lots of experience. Harshal Patel, with his death bowling skills, is the highest wicket-taker in the IPL 2021 and would likely get a berth in the squad for Sri Lanka.
Similarly, in the spin department, also India has various options, and the primary limited-over spinners are not part of the squad for England. Both Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav are not going through a great phase in their career, but selectors should trust them to get back in form against a relatively weak side like Sri Lanka. One leg-spinner who has made quick strides in recent months is Rahul Chahar, and he should be a definite member of the tour party and may also start as India’s number one spinner in this tour. His IPL performance was also impressive as he was one of the bright spots for Mumbai Indians in their otherwise mediocre campaign. Ravi Bishnoi is another attacking leg spinner option for India, but keeping in mind his age and exposure in domestic cricket, it could be too early for him to get an India call-up. The other spin option for India could be the mystery spin of Varun Chakravarthy. However, there were doubts regarding his fitness earlier. He is currently recovering from COVID, so whether he gets the nod from the selectors, that would be interesting to see.
Whatever the squad for Sri Lanka would be, there will certainly be few surprises and interesting choices. It is always heartwarming to see newcomers and relatively unknown players performing and making their mark in international cricket. And that’s why this Sri Lanka tour should be a very interesting one to follow despite the absence of India’s top players.
There is also a rumour that Rahul Dravid could be part of this team either as a coach or mentor, and that could be a big factor if it comes true. Dravid is an Under-19 World Cup-winning coach and had a great record for India-A teams, where he has worked with most of these fringe players. His presence will definitely be a boost for the second-string Indian side for the Sri Lanka tour.