In between the highly-anticipated World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand and their marquee five-Test series versus England, India will be resuming their longstanding rivalry with Sri Lanka via a limited-overs series.
The series wasn’t originally part of India’s itinerary for the year but was confirmed by BCCI president Sourav Ganguly in an interview with Sportstar earlier in the year.
Ganguly, when asked whether the then indefinitely suspended Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 could be held in the month of July, responded “No”, adding “India is supposed to go to Sri Lanka for three ODIs and five T20Is.”
As per the former skipper, India were initially bound to play five T20Is on their trip but that was later trimmed down to a three-match affair. The ODIs will be part of the two teams’ campaign in the ICC Super League, while the T20Is enable their preparations towards the T20 World Cup.
Sony Sports, the official Indian broadcaster for India’s forthcoming tour of Sri Lanka, confirmed the dates for the matches, with ODIs scheduled for July 13th, 16th and 18th and T20Is on 21st, 23rd and 25th, respectively. The R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo is expected to be the venue.
Much of the anticipation about India’s visit to the Island nation – their first since the Nidahas Trophy tri-series in 2018 – revolves around the probable squad. Especially since it’s confirmed that India won’t be sending their regular names.
India’s probable limited-overs squad for the Sri Lanka tour
Due to the travelling and quarantine restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, most of India’s multi-format stars – those selected for the Test summer in the UK – won’t be available for the Sri Lanka series. They’ll stay in the UK through July after the WTC final and play intra-squad matches ahead of the England series. Thus, mandating that the selectors pick an entirely different squad, featuring limited-overs specialists and those on the team’s fringes – a cause of excitement for the fans.
Speculations are rife around India’s potential captaincy candidates for the series, with none of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma available. While Shreyas Iyer would be a direct replacement if fit after a lengthy injury lay-off, Hardik Pandya or Shikhar could also get the nod. The name of Bhuvneshwar Kumar should also be in consideration.
The Sri Lanka series will provide much-needed on-field action for India’s white-ball specialists, who would’ve otherwise gone three months without any cricket post the premature end of IPL 2021 ahead of the T20 World Cup.
Individualistic goals will combine with the aim to try and defeat Sri Lanka, as Indian players get a chance to strengthen their cases of selection in both ODIs and T20Is. While the likes of Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan, Suryakumar Yadav, wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan would have the opportunity to impress for slots in the batting unit, in the bowling department, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar among others will be looking to send timely reminder of their quality.
Given the restrictions, the selectors are reportedly set to pick a 24-man contingent for the series, which could also open the doors for a few of the uncapped performers from the IPL and domestic white-ball cricket.
Having early picked India’s potential ODI XI and T20I XI for the Sri Lanka series, below we enlist the team’s probable squad for the entire six-match trip keeping in mind the absentees and other factors.
India’s 24-man squad (probable) for Sri Lanka tour:
Shikhar Dhawan (vc), Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Nitish Rana, Shreyas Iyer (captain, if fit), Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey, Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Rahul Tewatia, Varun Chakravarthy, Rahul Chahar, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravi Bishnoi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, T Natarajan, Navdeep Saini, Karthik Tyagi, Chetan Sakariya