While India’s Test team will be preparing for the English challenge in July, a separate squad is likely to travel to Sri Lanka at the same time, exclusively for white-ball cricket. A look at the possible XI that could line up for the T20I leg.
With the T20 World Cup fast approaching, and little white-ball cricket to play in the lead-up to it, each series is vital for India to gauge their T20 resources and formulate plans for the global event later this year. It didn’t help that the IPL got curtailed – the tournament is usually a ready reference for form and potential, but a white-ball series in Sri Lanka, confirmed by BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, could act as the dress rehearsal for some of the fringe players ahead of the mega event.
Here’s a look at the possible T20I XI for the Sri Lanka series:
Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw
Separated by 14 years but united in their approach to pile on the big runs at the top, Dhawan and Shaw, the two openers at Delhi Capitals, are likely to be first-choice picks for Sri Lanka. The reliable and solid Dhawan, India’s third-highest run-getter in T20Is, perfectly complements Shaw’s fiery style in the powerplays. While it would be the ideal path for Shaw, uncapped in T20Is, to re-enter the Indian set-up, Dhawan will aim to consolidate his claim as the T20 World Cup opener. Dhawan, in particular, has a prolific history against the Lankans, with three fifties and an average of 41.28 and could also be the captain.
Middle order and wicketkeeper
Sanju Samson, Suryakumar Yadav
With a 145+ strike rate in the last three IPL seasons, Samson has established his image as a genuine power-hitting option in the middle overs (even though consistency can be a concern). He doubles up as a wicketkeeper too. Further down, Suryakumar at No.4 seems to be an obvious choice: his innovative style has been the highlight of Mumbai Indians’ recent success, and he continued in the same vein in his debut T20I series against England earlier this year, striking at 185.41.
Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Rahul Tewatia
The Pandya brothers have been integral cogs in the Mumbai Indians line-up, lighting up the death overs with their big-hitting (both have a strike rate of 135+). Hardik, a wonderful fielder as well, hasn’t bowled much in recent times because of injury, but is generally a handy option with his brisk pace, while Krunal is known for stitching together frugal spells with his accurate left-arm spin.
Just to extend the batting line-up and bring in an air of mystique, Rahul Tewatia could slot in at No.7 – his lusty blows in the end overs lit up IPL 2020 (strike-rate 139.34), and his leg-spin can also extend the slow-bowling options. If the team is looking for an additional seamer, Bhuvneshwar Kumar is an undeniable pick, having proved in the recent England series that he continues to be an excellent white-ball bowler.
Deepak Chahar, Rahul Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Varun Chakravarthy
In the spin section, Rahul Chahar and Varun Chakravarthy compensate for the lack of experience with a unique flair, combining an array of variations with their attacking lines. Both play contrasting roles: while Chakravarthy is an out-and-out powerplay bowler, Chahar follows later, clamping down on the runs before lulling the batsman to make a mistake. Both had an economy of less than eight in IPL 2021 and were the most successful spinners for their respective teams.
Among quicks, Deepak Chahar is a must-have, given his sustained success with the new white ball. His swing will be handsomely complemented by the out-and-out pace of Navdeep Saini, who’d be looking to claw his way back in after losing his T20I spot last year.
India’s predicted XI:
Shikhar Dhawan (c), Prithvi Shaw, Sanju Samson (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Rahul Tewatia, Deepak Chahar, Rahul Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Varun Chakravarthy
Others: Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishan Kishan, Harshal Patel, Devdutt Padikkal, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav
T Natarajan and Shreyas Iyer, currently recovering from injuries, could also make it to the trip if fitness permits.