Mumbai In the team picked for the limited-overs series in Sri Lanka, the selectors have done a straightforward job of rewarding Indian Premier League performances.
Save for a few limited-overs specialists like Shikhar Dhawan—captaining India for the first time—vice-captain Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya, and Yuzvendra Chahal, most players on the roster have got their opportunity because many of the top players will be on the Test tour of England.
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Yet, the squad for Sri Lanka is full of exciting players, pointing to India’s great depth in cricket talent.
For the 21-year-old Prithvi Shaw, 20-year-old Devdutt Padikkal, 24-year-old Ruturaj Gaikwad and 22-year-old Ishan Kishan, it’s not just an opportunity for showcasing their skills—they will go on tour with the confidence that they are long-term prospects, chance to develop on their immense potential.
As India captain Virat Kohli mentioned on the eve of the England tour, this is an effort to brood in a new generation.
“If you look at our transition, it was really smooth because we are all committed to keeping Indian cricket on top. In Test cricket we have been No 1 for a few years in a row now. Now you see youngsters are coming into the team and another transition is taking place. This is an ongoing process to keep the standard of Indian cricket really high,” Kohli said. “We have done our duty with absolute commitment and now our responsibility is to instill the same passion and commitment in the next lot of players, so that we remain on top for more years to come.”
For Padikkal and Gaikwad this is a maiden call up. Shaw and Kishan have got a taste of international cricket already—Shaw in Tests and Kishan in limited overs.
Padikkal hasn’t put a foot wrong since he made his senior team debut for Karnataka in 2018. The left-handed opener has been their stand-out performer in all three formats. In the IPL, for Royal Challengers Bangalore, he started with 400-plus runs last season. After recovering from Covid-19 this season, he made his maiden IPL hundred.
The tall opener became the first Indian to hit four consecutive List A centuries, while opening for Karnataka this year in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. That tournament also saw a hurricane run of scores from Prithvi Shaw, opening for Mumbai, and trying to prove himself again after failing on the tour of Australia. Shaw topped even Padikkal in the run tally, becoming the first player to breach the 800-run mark in the history of the tournament to finish with 827 runs in eight innings (Padikkal scored 737 in seven innings).
Shaw kept going at the same pace in the IPL. With 308 runs in eight innings, he dazzled for Delhi Capitals with three half-centuries.
In Sri Lanka, they may get to bat together—with one as an opening partner to Dhawan and the other at No 3—and continue to push each other.
“There is a lot of competition, but I take it as a fun challenge. The more competition I have, the more drive I have to do better, that’s how I look at it,” Padikkal said.
Challenging them for a place in the top order will be the stylish Ruturaj Gaikwad, who has come into the limelight with his elegant batting for Chennai Super Kings. While scoring 196 runs with two fifties, Gaikwad formed a strong opening partnership with Faf du Plessis, helping CSK to the second spot in IPL 2021 before the tournament was suspended. The wiry Maharashtra batsman has a healthy average of 47.87 in List A cricket, having first burst into the scene during the 2016-17 Vijay Hazare Trophy when he ended as the third highest run-scorer in the tournament.
Gaikwad is a gifted timer of the ball who scores runs at a rapid pace with deft touches—his ability to find gaps is extraordinary.
“He’s got a strong purpose about what he needs to do and is simple in his game plan. The batting is anything but simplistic, but his method and the way he trains is really refreshing, CSK coach Stephen Fleming had said during the IPL.
Ishan Kishan can’t be faulted if he feels that he was born in the wrong era—the big-hitting wicket-keeper batsman has to contend with his former U19 teammate Rishabh Pant, whose place in the India squad is sacrosanct.
The Mumbai Indians and Jharkhand player is a like for like replacement and is seen as a long-term back-up for Pant. He has yet to taste success in IPL 2021, but has been rewarded for his performance last season when he averaged 57.33 at a strike rate of 145.76.
Unifying them all will be a man who has had a huge hand in their development as players—Rahul Dravid, who has worked with them since their U19 days, will be traveling with them as coach to Sri Lanka for the three ODIs and three T20s.
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