Former India captain and BCCI president, Sourav Ganguly, on Sunday (May 9) said the national team is due to travel to Sri Lanka for a series of 3 ODIs and 5 T20Is.
Ganguly brought the India-Sri Lanka series under discussions when during an interview with Sportstar, he was asked whether the remaining games of the recently suspended IPL 2021 can be held in July – after the World Test Championship final against New Zealand and before the five-Test series versus England.
“No,” Ganguly said in response, adding “India is supposed to go to Sri Lanka for three ODIs and five T20Is. There are lots of organisational hazards like 14-day quarantine. It [the IPL] can’t happen in India [either]. This quarantine is tough to handle. Too early to say how we can find a slot to complete the IPL.”
The moment Ganguly’s interview was published and publicly shared, it left the social media buzzing over the likelihood of India sending some of their exciting young players on the fringes across the Island nation.
It is highly likely that India will be sending a second-string squad if the Sri Lanka tour goes ahead, considering the marquee tour of UK and the stringent travelling restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The quarantine regulations will make it extremely difficult for India’s first-choice cricketers to travel to Sri Lanka after the WTC final and then return in time for the England Tests. Hence, most if not all of the 20-man Test squad will stay in the UK through July and play intra-squad matches.
The three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka is part of the 13-team ICC Super League, which determines qualification spots for the 2023 World Cup in India. And even though India being hosts have already made it to the quadrennial event, the selectors and the management will be keen for a test of side’s depth and see which players emerge as strong candidates for a regular place in the ODI team.
India’s likely second-string ODI XI for Sri Lanka tour
1. Prithvi Shaw
It was on the 2020 tour of New Zealand that India first trialled the option of Prithvi Shaw as an opening batsman in ODIs. And though the youngster didn’t make any substantial score, it was evident how well he has recognised his role as he was selflessly trying to put the opposition attack under pressure. The idea of Shaw the top-order aggressor is worth a run in the playing XI, something the tour of Sri Lanka is a fantastic opportunity for.
2. Shikhar Dhawan
He may not be the best of Test or T20I batters, but ODI cricket has always been Shikhar Dhawan’s strongest suit. The left-hander has been a longstanding stalwart of Indian ODI batting. Dhawan has a rich legacy in the 50-over version, with outstanding performances in as many as four major ICC tournaments. He is a definite first-choice pick for the tour of Sri Lanka.
3. Suryakumar Yadav
After dominating with the bat for Mumbai in the Vijay Hazare Trophy earlier this year, Suryakumar Yadav earned his maiden ODI call-up for the series against England in March. And though the elegant right-hander warmed the benches across three games in Pune, there is little doubt in anyone’s mind he is a valuable addition to the setup. Suryakumar, who is in the pink of health with his batting at this point in time, could finally get the nod in the playing XI in Sri Lanka.
4. Shreyas Iyer (c)
Shreyas Iyer has settled the debate around the No.4 spot since his comeback post the 2019 World Cup. He has now played 22 ODIs for India with 813 runs at an average of 42.78 and strike-rate of 100.37. Iyer, who is integral to India’s middle-order, will also be the strongest captaincy candidate for the tour of Sri Lanka in absence of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.
5. Hardik Pandya
Injuries may have held back his bowling self, but he showed during the Australia tour and the home series versus England that Hardik Pandya can walk into the Indian ODI XI as a batsman alone. He will, thus, be carrying a greater sense of confidence with him into the tour of Sri Lanka. Hardik has a wealth of experience behind him and will have extra responsibility on his shoulders in absence of other prominent names.
6. Ishan Kishan
Ishan Kishan could also be in line for an ODI debut on the tour of Sri Lanka where Rishabh Pant is expected to not travel with the side. Kishan boasts of a very fine record in List A cricket for Jharkhand, with 2,549 runs from 77 games at an average of 36.94 and strike-rate of 91.75. Kishan can be another valuable addition to India’s lower middle-order.
7. Krunal Pandya
In his debut ODI series versus England in March, Krunal batted very well at No.7 for India, going at a strike-rate of 128.38 and providing the innings with the final flourish required. And though he struggled as a bowler on flat pitches in Pune, it is expected Krunal will be producing better performances in time, especially if Hardik starts sharing the fifth-bowler duties with him.
8. Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was a class apart among bowlers from either side during the high-scoring ODI series against England in Pune. The right-arm quick took 6 wickets from his three outings at an average of 22.50 and an economy rate of just 4.66. Bhuvneshwar’s exceptional comeback to the ODI side and clarity on his future in the Indian setup after Test squad ouster, shall spur him on for the tour of Sri Lanka.
9. Rahul Chahar
Struggles of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal in the last two years could force the selectors to spread the net wider in search of spin options and open up the door for young wrist-spinner Rahul Chahar. Chahar hasn’t been previously considered for ODI selection but could prove effective in the middle-overs for India, providing control and wicket-taking ability to the team. Chahar has taken 64 wickets from his 39 List A matches at an average of 26.23 and an economy rate of 5.12.
10. T Natarajan
Left-arm pacer T Natarajan made his ODI debut for India late last year in Australia and returned with figures of 2/70 in Canberra. Natarajan didn’t get a game versus England in Pune but seems like a guaranteed starter for the tour of Sri Lanka in absence of multiple first-choice quicks. He has played 17 List A matches with 19 scalps at an economy rate of 4.72.
11. Navdeep Saini
The coming tour of Sri Lanka could witness the comeback of express paceman Navdeep Saini in India’s ODI outfit. Saini has fallen out of favours in the limited-overs setup since couple of poor outings on the tour of Australia. But the 28-year-old is undoubtedly an exciting prospect and deserves another run of games in the playing XI. Saini’s tall stature and pace through the air could trouble the Sri Lankan batsmen.