One of the most exciting things surrounding the upcoming series between India and Sri Lanka has to be India's possible XI, given the bunch of exciting options that they have at their disposal. For almost every slot, there are quite a few quality options that India will have the liberty to pick from.
The most significant takeaway from India's tour Down Under, earlier this year, was India's dynamite bench strength. Something that Rahul Dravid had played a major role in with his stints as the head coach of the junior Indian units. As fate would have it, few months down the line, not only will the world get to witness India's epic second-string side featuring in an international series but they will do so with Rahul Dravid at the helm of affairs. All this makes up for an exciting series against Sri Lanka that will kick-start with the three-match ODI series on July 18. Today, we shall take a look at possible contenders for different slots and then also reveal our picks for each slot:
Devdutt Padikkal: List A- 20 innings, 1,387 runs@ 86.68, SR- 86.85
Stylish, flamboyant, full of promise, when he stands tall and caresses the bowlers, 21-years-old Devdutt Padikkal is a sight to behold. His strike rate in 50-overs cricket has got him criticism at times, but not his consistency with which he took this year's Vijay Hazare trophy by storm. His flamboyance was at its zenith in this year's IPL, where he even stole the thunder from his opening partner Virat Kohli.
Ruturaj Gaikwad: List A- 58 innings, 2,681 runs@ 47.87, SR- 97.59
A classy batsman from the land of Pune, Ruturaj Gaikwad is a free-stroking opener who is full of deft touches, supreme timing and is masterfully acquainted with the art of scoring rapidly whilst being solid. The 24-year-old came off age in the last two seasons of the IPL. But he has been impressive for India A in the 50-overs format, for quite some time now. His classy repertoire caught everyone's eye in the intra-squad game as well.
Prithvi Shaw: ODIs- 3 innings, 84 runs@ 28, SR- 102.43; List A: 2,211 runs@ 58.18, SR- 124.98
Just take a look at Prithvi Shaw's mind-boggling strike rate of 124.98 in List A cricket, and one gets to know the sheer match-winner he's in the format. After a record-breaking season in the Vijay Hazare trophy where he blasted 827 runs at 165.40 with a SR of 138.29, he followed it up with an exceptional display in the IPL and is the man in red-hot form.
Shikhar Dhawan: ODIs- 139 innings, 5,977 runs@ 45.28, SR- 93.90
Team India's skipper for the tour, Shikhar Dhawan has already translated into what the young opening trio aspires to be in the 50-overs format. An Indian regular, Dhawan topped the run-charts in this year's IPL with 380 runs at 54.28 and will hold the key for India's top three in the absence of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli.
SportsCafe's pick: Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw
Well, this is a no-brainer. Dhawan walks into the side while Prithvi Shaw, after a brilliant VHT and IPL, should be picked ahead of Padikkal and Gaikwad, given he can have the maximum impact amongst all the openers in the side.
No.3 & 4 slots
Nitish Rana: List A - 57 innings, 1,940 runs@ 41.27, SR- 84.79
Delhi's Nitish Rana emerged as one of the top five run-getters in this year's Vijay Hazare trophy after scoring 398 runs at 66.33. However, he blew hot and cold in the subsequent IPL for the Kolkata-based franchise and is unlikely to feature in the ODI leg of the series against Sri Lanka.
Manish Pandey: ODIs- 21 innings, 492 runs@ 35.14, SR- 91.96
Manish Pandey is one of the most experienced batsmen on the Indian side for the tour of Sri Lanka. The Karnataka batter has had an unfulfilled career despite his stellar record for India A, given he has never been trusted enough by either MS Dhoni or Virat Kohli. Talking about current form, he hardly played two games in the VHT due to injury while his strike rate remained questionable in the IPL. But he did show great touch in the intra-squad game with a well-made fifty.
Suryakumar Yadav: List A- 87 innings, 2,779 firstname.lastname@example.org, SR- 103.88
Okay, let's admit that Suryakumar Yadav is one of the most exciting batters in the side, and it's hard for the Indian fans to keep calm before they can see India's own Mr.360 degree in the middle. His domination in the VHT can be understood from the fact that he struck at 151.59 in the tournament (min.300 runs), best for any batter. Moreover, he showcased his range in his debut series against England and will be one of the X-factors for the side.
SportsCafe's pick: Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav
Manish and Surya should bat at #3 and #4. Most of the batters in the side are inexperienced and aggressive, and there won't be anyone better than Manish to provide the kind of solidity that someone like Joe Root provides to England at #3. While there might be temptations to play Surya at #3, his versatility makes him a better pick at 4, given his prowess across different phases and against pace and spin likewise.
Sanju Samson: List A- 89 innings, 2,445 runs@ 30.56, SR- 88.71
Sanju Samson is the king of both inconsistency and talent. He is one of those players who can excite and frustrate with equal intensity at different junctures. After failing in the VHT, and making a great start to the IPL, Samson had started to put up inconsistent displays, but then he picked up later on and now finds himself in India's squad for the series against Sri Lanka.
Ishan Kishan: List A - 74 innings, 2,549 runs@ 36.94, SR- 91.75
It's interesting to note that Kishan (36.94) has a far better average in List A cricket than both Samson (30.56) and Pant (31.45). He made a fantastic start to his international career with a stroke-filled fifty and can be decent behind the stumps too. But, unlike Samson, Kishan hardly kept wickets in this year's IPL. Also, he struggled with form and could merely average 14.60 with the willow in hand.
Sportscafe's pick: Sanju Samson
Both Samson and Kishan are immensely talented, but Samson is in better nick, with the southpaw struggling for runs.
Krunal Panyda: ODIs- 3 innings, 95 runs@ 95, SR-128.37, 1 wicket@ 160
List A- 2,078 runs@ 38.48, SR- 89.76, 81 wickets@ 32.74
On the back of an exceptional VHT, which saw him score two hundreds and fifties each in five innings, Krunal earned a maiden call-up in the ODI series against England. The southpaw impressed with the bat and made a crucial fifty in one of the games. However, his bowling was below-par as he gave away 160 runs in 120 balls for a solitary wicket.
Hardik Pandya: ODIs - 44 innings, 1,267 runs@ 34.24, SR- 117.31; 55 wickets@ 41.21, ER- 5.56
One of the major takeaways from the ODIs against Australia and England was Hardik Pandya's outrageous ability with the bat, which got better with the added responsibility of playing as a specialist batter. Given he has been bowling in the nets, the ODI series will likely see the return of Hardik the all-rounder at full tilt.
Krishnappa Gowtham: List A, 33 innings, 558 runs@ 21.46, SR- 141.26; 70 wickets@ 28.14, ER- 4.73
An off-spinner who can use the long handle well, Krishnappa Gowtham earned his maiden India call-up for the series against Sri Lanka. He's known for his T20 prowess, but he did a great job with the ball in hand in the 2019/20 VHT, though he featured in just two games in this year's competition. Even in IPL, he has only featured in two games in the last two years and only comes into the picture if India are looking to play a spinning all-rounder.
SportsCafe's pick- Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya
Hardik Pandya is a sure-shot starter, and with him starting to bowl, both Pandya brothers can play together. They can share the quota of the fifth bowler, which effectively means that India can do with four-five overs from Krunal and in turn, he adds considerable muscle power to the lower-order, alongside his brother.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar: ODIs- 116 innings, 138 wickets@ 34.08, ER- 5.02
While many feel that he should have been in the UK for Test cricket, the fact remains that Bhuvneshwar will be leading India's bowling unit in Sri Lanka. Bhuvi, whose tryst with injuries are well-known, made a solid comeback against England in the white-ball series and would look to exploit the new ball against a weakened Lankan batting.
Deepak Chahar: ODIs- 2 wickets@ 64.50, ER- 6.14; List A- 58 wickets@ 28.86, ER- 5.19
One of the best exponents of swing bowling in the country, Deepak Chahar had a phenomenal IPL where he made batters dance against the new ball. Additionally, the right-arm pacer is also very decent in the death overs and can contribute with the bat, lower-down the order, which makes him a good utility player.
Navdeep Saini: ODIs- 7 innings, 6 wickets@ 75.66, ER- 6.98; List A- 81 wickets@ 30.24, ER- 5.28
One of the most promising pacers once, Navdeep Saini's rise was short-lived as inconsistency took over his career. He wasn't even trusted by his franchise in the IPL, with them only fielding him in one game. However, he brings the X-factor of raw pace to India's line-up, which is missing with all the other pacers in the squad.
Chetan Sakariya: List A- 7 innings, 10 wickets@ 40.70, ER- 6.67
While Chetan Sakariya's List A numbers are average, his temperament to perform well in pressure-cooker situations helped him hog the limelight in this year's IPL. He brings the variation of a left-armer to the side and is excellent with both the new and old ball. As raw as he is at the moment, there is this calmness that he brings to the table, which is very unlike for an inexperienced pacer and bodes well for India.
SportsCafe's pick- Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Chetan Sakariya
With Bhuvi already in the line-up, it doesn't make much sense to field Deepak Chahar, given both bring similar attributes to the plate. There is a clear shoot-out between Sakariya and Saini. Given Sri Lanka's recent struggles against David Willey and Sam Curran, India should bet on the youngster. If the youngster delivers, he can be a wildcard for the T20 World Cup too, owing to the variation of a left-armer, with T Natarajan having injury woes.
Yuzvendra Chahal: ODIs- 53 innings, 92 wickets@ 27.29, ER- 5.20
Chahal was one of the top spinners for India once, but there has been a dramatic fall for the leg-spinner of late. He failed terribly in this year's IPL, where he took four wickets in seven games and was bowling flatter, down on confidence, and was mediocre even on spin-friendly tracks.
Kuldeep Yadav: ODIs- 61 innings, 105 wickets@ 27.90, ER- 5.22
Kuldeep Yadav hasn't got many opportunities for India in the recent while, but he did feature in two ODIs against England and copped heavy pasting, giving away 152 runs in 19 overs at an ER of 8. The problem is that he looks horribly out of depth at the moment. He didn't get to play even one game in this year's IPL as well.
Rahul Chahar: List A- 39 innings, 64 wickets@ 26.23, ER- 5.12
An attacking leg-spin option, Rahul Chahar was at the peak of his powers during this year's IPL, where he scalped 11 wickets in seven innings at 18.36. His wicket-taking prowess came out well, especially the way he broke open games. He aced setting up batters and boasts many variations in his kitty.
Varun Chakravarthy: List A- 9 innings, 22 wickets@ 16.68, ER- 4.23
A wicketkeeper turned medium-pacer turned spinner, Varun Chakravarthy's bowling action resembles Ajantha Mendis, while his temperament is pretty much like Sunil Narine. A product of TNPL, the mystery spinner has been sensational in whatever cricket he has played so far as his List A numbers suggest. With his top-notch skills and brilliant temperament, he's a promising prospect for the country.
SportsCafe's pick- Rahul Chahar and Varun Chakravarthy
The much-awaited KulCha reunion can wait for some time, given there is nothing much to suggest that there has been any improvement to the declining duo. However, given how well Rahul Chahar has been doing, he can play as an attacking option with Varun Chakravarthy as the second spinner, given the befuddling variations and mystery he brings to the plate. Also, keeping in mind India's poor spin record, this might well help turnaround things in the department, with nothing working in the recent past.
Sportscafe's XI for the ODIs- Shikhar Dhawan (C), Prithvi Shaw, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Sanju Samson (WK), Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rahul Chahar, Chetan Sakariya, Varun Chakravarthy.