Updated: June 28, 2021 2:51:38 pm
Two senior players of the Indian team that is going to Sri Lanka for a short limited-overs series might have been better used elsewhere, in swing and seam-friendly conditions in England, if they were up to it. As India played the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand in cloudy Southampton, Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s bend was missed. And after the defeat, Virat Kohli spoke about not having a fast-bowling all-rounder, a hole that Hardik Pandya could have filled.
Then again, Kumar hasn’t played first-class cricket for more than three years now, while Pandya barely bowls even in limited-overs cricket these days. So, their omission from the touring party to England was understandable. Both are part of the second-string Indian team going to Sri Lanka, with Kumar as its vice-captain. For Shikhar Dhawan, the captain of the side, Test cricket probably has bypassed him, but for all three of them, the tour would be important with an eye to the T20 World Cup in October-November. India will play three ODIs and as many T20Is in the Island nation, with the first one-dayer on July 13.
Two separate India squads playing in two different parts of the world in two different formats offers a novelty. At the moment, with the Covid restrictions in place, this looks the new normal. Rahul Dravid is the India coach for the Lanka tour.
“This is a unique situation in terms of the quarantine and travel restrictions. It’s very hard to predict what’s going to happen on a month-to-month basis (with Covid-19),” Dravid said at the pre-departure press conference.
“When the travel between countries becomes restricted, this could be done in the short term. Whether it’s a long-term solution, I’m not sure. For that, we need to have more conversations with all stakeholders including other boards, sponsors, media rights and so on. It does ease some pressure on the all-format players as it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the same set of players to get through the restrictions that are in place.”
Chance to impress
This could well be the last three T20Is for India before the World Cup. The resumption of the Indian Premier League will follow the Test series in England that concludes on September 14 and like the T20 competition, the World Cup is also set to be played in the UAE.
This makes the Sri Lanka series all the more important for Dhawan in particular. By appointing him captain for the tour, the Chetan Sharma-led selection committee has sent out a message about the left-hander remaining in the scheme of things for the T20 World Cup. His strike rate in the shortest format had been under the scanner and in the home T20I series against England earlier this year, he had lost his place in the eleven after just one game. The emergence of Suryakumar Yadav saw Kohli promoting himself to open with Rohit Sharma.
Dhawan’s big-tournament experience, however, has kept him in the mix and with a couple of selectors travelling to Sri Lanka, his intent would be monitored. “It’s a new challenge but at the same time, it’s a great opportunity for all of us to show our talent,” Dhawan said at the presser on Sunday.
Kumar’s dodgy fitness record of late has been a concern and this series gives him an opportunity to make a statement. For Pandya, the overs under his belt would give an idea about his all-round contribution going ahead. As regards to Prithvi Shaw, back in the national team fold, he has the chance to iron out his technical flaws under Dravid’s guidance.
The 20-member squad has six spinners and for Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav in particular, the challenge would be to get out of their lean patch. In T2OIs, India currently has a spin vacancy beyond Ravindra Jadeja.
SL tour itinerary:
July 13: 1st ODI
July 16: 2nd ODI
July 18: 3rd ODI
July 21: 1st T20I
July 23: 2nd T20I
July 25: 3rd T20I
All the matches are in Colombo.
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