Sri Lanka vs. India: The six games will likely give vital experience for a lot of young players while also allowing the selectors to assess the bench strength.
After a four-month hiatus, India returns to white-ball cricket with three One-Day Internationals and as many Twenty20 Internationals against Sri Lanka, which begin on Sunday in Colombo. This visit may appear unimportant to some, given that another Indian squad is preparing for a Test series in England. It does, however, present some unique opportunities.
India has sent an inexperienced, if not second-string, side to Sri Lanka, led by Shikhar Dhawan. Indian cricket is in an unprecedented position with two teams on different assignments, and it remains to be seen whether this would become standard practise in the future. For the time being, though, the England Tests will undoubtedly pique attention, while the results of the Sri Lanka tour will be hard to ignore.
It doesn’t help that the home team has a low confidence level. Sri Lanka were recently swept by England in ODIs and T20Is, three of their players – Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis, and Danushka Gunathilaka – have been suspended for violating Covid-19 protocols, a bitter pay dispute with the board was only resolved last week, and their most experienced player, Angelo Mathews, has opted out of the India series for personal reasons.
There are a few major talking topics for the Indian squad as they prepare for the Sri Lanka series. To begin with, this tour is India’s final international white-ball assignment before the T20 World Cup, and it will serve as a showcase for players seeking to create a name for themselves. As much as India wants to thrive as a whole, players will want to compete against one another. Candidates for particular roles in the World Cup will be scrutinised by the selectors, and the struggles within the Indian team in Sri Lanka will be crucial.
Second, the six games will most likely give vital opportunity for a number of young players while also allowing the selectors to assess bench strength. If given the chance, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, and Varun Chakravarthy, who have performed in the IPL, would be eager to make an impression in their first international series.
India’s ODI and T20I squad: Shikhar Dhawan (captain), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (vice-captain), Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Nitish Rana, Ishan Kishan (wicketkeeper), Sanju Samson (wicket
Then there’s Rahul Dravid’s appointment as head coach. In recent years, the former India captain, who is now in charge of the National Cricket Academy, has done an outstanding job with the India A and Under-19 sides. His participation will only benefit India’s crucial white-ball cricket team.
Skipper Dhawan, Padikkal, Sanju Samson, Prithvi Shaw, Nitish Rana, Krishnappa Gowtham, Nitish Rana, and Chetan Sakariya have all stated that learning from Dravid is something they are looking forward to.
“You couldn’t ask for anything better than to have him as our coach, and to have a mentor like him beside you, it’s just a fantastic feeling, and maybe I can learn a lot from him,” Padikkal said.
“The way he communicates, the way he shares his coaching expertise is just amazing,” Shaw continued. When he speaks about the game, it is clear that he has a lot of expertise. He knows all there is to know about cricket. The way he talks about situations and how to exploit them is incredible.”
Despite Dravid’s presence and the exhilaration of witnessing new talent on the greatest platform, the intra-squad fights will likely be the most important aspect for India as we approach the T20 World Cup later this year.
With regular skipper Virat Kohli showing interest in opening the batting at the conclusion of the T20I series against England in March, Dhawan and Shaw’s outings in Sri Lanka would be crucial.
In the first half of the IPL 2021, both openers were in excellent form. Dhawan was near-perfect as he led Delhi Capitals to the top of the table, while Shaw continued his domestic form to demonstrate his white-ball brilliance.
Padikkal and Gaikwad will be eager to impress the selectors if and when they receive opportunities, despite the fact that their participation in the World Cup team appears to be a long shot at this stage.
Even the intermediate order is a tough nut to crack. Suryakumar Yadav will try to build on his impressive debut against England earlier this year, while Samson will be eager for runs in order to reclaim his place in the main lineup. Ishan Kishan, Nitish Rana, and Manish Pandey are all in the team, and the six games will provide these guys a chance to gain ground in the middle order battle.
Hardik Pandya, on the other hand, appears to be a foregone conclusion based only on his big-hitting abilities. However, the all-rounder would like to put his bowling skills to the test this time. The 27-year-old did not bowl for Mumbai Indians during the first half of the IPL 2021, and the Indian team management would like him to bowl as many overs as possible in the run-up to the World Cup.
In a similar scenario, Bhuvneshwar Kumar finds himself. He’s one of India’s finest speed bowlers in white-ball cricket when he’s completely healthy, but the 31-year-old has suffered with injury after injury in recent years, and it’s critical for him to have more overs under his belt.
With the T20 World Cup just a few months away, India’s spin bowling is likely to be the main source of concern. Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, Gowtham, Krunal Pandya, and Kuldeep Yadav are in the team for the Sri Lanka series. As the selectors strive to figure out the ideal mix, these five spinners have another chance to distinguish themselves.
While India will undoubtedly strive to win each game, this trip may serve as an audition for each player. It shouldn’t be surprising if they concentrate on individual performances. Perhaps it’s a requirement of the hour. It may be the most difficult task for Dravid — a true team player — in balancing his team’s strategies in terms of personal vs. collective. The second half of the IPL 2021 will definitely be important in terms of T20 World Cup selection, but Sri Lankan players must seize their opportunities.
India has a huge talent pool from which to pick. However, as they prepare for the T20 World Cup, they must address certain concerns about their first-choice XI. There is an opportunity for the players in Sri Lanka to steal the show against a weak opposition. They may not be able to smash the door down with a century or five-for. Perhaps it’s a case of each player for himself.