India squad: The senior men’s selection panel on Thursday (June 10) announced India’s much-awaited touring contingent for the limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka, scheduled for July.
The Chetan Sharma led committee chose an entirely different squad for the trip, keeping in mind the absence of India’s white-ball regulars placed on Test duties in England.
India will face Sri Lanka in three ODIs and three T20Is during the tour. The ODIs are part of their campaign in the ICC Super League, which determines direct qualification spots for the 2023 World Cup, whereas the T20Is are part of the buildup to the T20 World Cup scheduled for this year.
Colombo’s iconic R Premadasa Stadium will host all six matches, with the ODIs to be held on July 13th, 16th and 18th, followed by the T20Is on July 21st, 23rd and 25th, respectively.
Below are some of the highlights from the India squad that had carried a huge sense of anticipation about it – among fans and experts – since the tour was first confirmed by BCCI president Sourav Ganguly in May.
India squad: Highlights from India’s squad for Sri Lanka tour
1. India squad: Shikhar Dhawan appointed captain; Bhuvneshwar Kumar named deputy
With Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma in England and Shreyas Iyer still recovering from his shoulder injury, the selectors appointed experienced opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan as the stand-in skipper and named veteran quick Bhuvneshwar Kumar as his deputy.
Both Dhawan and Bhuvneshwar are at a stage of their careers where they could do with such a vote of confidence, as selectors have reiterated their importance to the limited-overs setup going forward.
While Dhawan has had question marks raised over his game amidst stiff competition for the opening slot since the 2019 World Cup, Bhuvneshwar has had to tackle uncertainty due to a host of injuries and removal from the Test squad. At their best, however, the two cricketers are quite influential and impactful to India’s cause.
2. Encouragement for Padikkal, Gaikwad and Sakariya
Uncapped youngsters Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Chetan Sakariya have earned their maiden call-ups for the Sri Lanka tour. Although they aren’t the most complete products yet, the selectors have still looked to encourage the trio against an opponent they should manage.
Padikkal and Gaikwad, who represent Karnataka and Maharashtra respectively, have performed exceedingly well with the bat in domestic cricket, while Sakariya has emerged as a promising left-arm quick through exploits for Saurashtra. The three players have also done well for their respective IPL franchises in the last couple of years.
Padikkal, who had a tremendous start to his senior domestic career last season, was the second highest run-maker in the Vijay Hazare Trophy earlier this year, with 737 runs at an average of 147.40 and strike-rate of 95.96 from his seven innings. He continued his excellent form in the IPL for RCB after overcoming a COVID-19 positive test in-between and scored 195 runs from his six innings, including his maiden hundred in the league.
Gaikwad, who has been an India A regular, didn’t have the best of Vijay Hazare Trophy and even the IPL 2021 initially, but the cricketer bounced back strongly with successive half-centuries in his tally of 196 runs for CSK. He was back to his near best when the tournament was sadly suspended due to the pandemic.
The IPL 2021 proved to be a breakthrough event for Sakariya, who was bought by RR after eye-catching performances in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20, where he took 12 wickets from his 5 matches for Saurashtra at an economy rate of just 4.90. Playing the IPL in RR colours, Sakariya looked as if he belongs to this level, showing good control and consistency in the powerplay and the death. He took seven wickets from as many games at an economy rate of 8.22.
3. Comeback for Prithvi Shaw, Navdeep Saini
Given their talent and promise, the selectors have also handed comebacks to top-order batter Prithvi Shaw and express paceman Navdeep Saini.
Shaw’s return seemed imminent since he dominated the run-charts in the Vijay Hazare Trophy last year and continued his rich vein of form in IPL 2021. The young batsman made a whopping 827 runs in Mumbai’s successful campaign at an average of 165.40 and strike-rate of 138.29, including four hundreds.
For Delhi Capitals (DC), Shaw looked rejuvenated with an elevated range and refined technique, scoring 308 runs from his eight innings at a strike-rate of 166.48 while averaging a respectable 38.50.
Although Saini hasn’t had many performances to speak for his efforts since being dropped last year, his recall is a sign perhaps that selectors still have some faith in him. The injury to T Natarajan would’ve certainly helped Saini’s case on the selection table. Saini has played 7 ODIs and 9 T20Is for India previously, apart from his 2 Tests.
While Shaw can progress to become a top-order aggressor in the future, Saini’s ability to nail the hard lengths at pace makes him an attractive middle-overs enforcer candidate.
4. Manish Pandey returns; Nitish Rana handed maiden call-up
In Iyer’s absence, it is clear that Suryakumar Yadav will hold greater responsibility in the middle-order. But to share the load, selectors have recalled Manish Pandey to the side and handed Nitish Rana a maiden call-up to the side.
Manish’s is an interesting case as he boasts of an impressive record as a late-order aggressor despite irregular opportunities in the XI. The selectors, perhaps mindful of his understated contribution and sympathetic of his case, have thus gone back to him. In his 26 ODIs for India, Manish, who has had limited chances to bat at a particular spot, has still managed to average 35.14 with a strike-rate of 91.96.
Rana, the Delhi and KKR left-hand batsman, has always been one of the promising batsmen in Indian cricket. Despite his undoubted talent, however, Rana hasn’t been the most consistent of performers. But in Sri Lanka, he would have the opportunity to showcase what he can bring to the table. Rana has a decent List A record to his name, with 1,940 runs at an average of 41.27 and strike-rate of 84.79. In the IPL, he has now scored 1,638 runs at an impressive strike-rate of 133.82.
5. Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson identified as backup wicketkeepers
The selectors have identified Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson as the backup wicketkeeper-batsmen to focus their energies on and give them ample opportunities to improve and flourish heading into the ICC events coming up.
Kishan pipped Samson in the pecking order with a few impressive outings against England in March, but he’ll know he can’t take anything for granted, with the team set to be rotated through the tour under Rahul Dravid’s supervision.
Kishan had a breakthrough IPL season in UAE last year, scoring 516 runs at an average of 57.33 and strike-rate of 145.76. He was instrumental to MI’s surge towards the title for the record fifth time.
Samson, who was left out of the T20I side despite showing a lot of selfless intent in Australia last November, has been brought back in absence of Pant following his eye-catching performance for RR in this year’s IPL, including a ton on his captaincy debut versus Punjab. When the tournament was suspended in early May, Samson had 277 runs from his seven innings at a strike-rate of 145.78 and averaged 46.16.
6. Focus on Spin and Spin All-rounders
In view of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal’s struggles in the last couple of years, India needed to bolster their spin department quickly. The selectors have looked to rectify that by including Rahul Chahar and Varun Chakravarthy as strong backups for the ‘Kulcha’.
Chahar, a wrist-spinner in the classical mould, can be seen as a candidate to replace Chahal and Kuldeep for a short phase in ODIs. Chakravarthy, an incisive finger-spinner, can be given the nod in T20Is to keep Chahal on his toes.
With Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar unavailable, the selectors have also spread the net wider in the spin all-rounder’s category by retaining Krunal Pandya in the side and handing Krishnappa Gowtham a call-up. Gowtham has replaced Rahul Tewatia in the reckoning after the latter couldn’t overcome concerns over his fitness during the England series.
7. No place for Dinesh Karthik, Ravi Bishnoi or Arshdeep Singh
Despite calls for his reinclusion, there was no place for veteran gloveman Dinesh Karthik in India’s squad. In a clear sign of his future in their heads, the selectors didn’t recall Karthik to the T20I side. Karthik, sadly, has fallen in the reckoning to other options who can bat in the middle-order and also keep wickets. One can never predict what is to come, but at 36, Karthik may have already played his last game for the country.
The selectors also looked past Punjab Kings’ (PBKS) young, promising bowlers, Ravi Bishnoi and Arshdeep Singh, who have been fantastic for their team in the last IPL seasons. The duo has performed better than a few of PBKS’ more renowned faces and could’ve been featured in the extended squad.
Bishnoi, especially, offers variety to the attack with his interesting action and excellent control over googlies, which make life difficult for the right-handers. After taking 12 wickets at an economy of 7.37 last year in UAE, Bishnoi backed it up with 4 wickets from as many outings while conceding just 6.18 runs per over. He should’ve been in consideration for T20Is.
India squad for Sri Lanka tour
Shikhar Dhawan (Captain), Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Nitish Rana, Ishan Kishan (Wicket-keeper), Sanju Samson (Wicket-keeper), Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, K Gowtham, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Vice-captain), Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Chetan Sakariya
Net Bowlers: Ishan Porel, Sandeep Warrier, Arshdeep Singh, Sai Kishore, Simarjeet Singh