All eyes on Pawan Negi, but he may not play in 1st India-Sri Lanka T20

  • Kushal Phatarpekar, Hindustan Times, Pune
  • Updated: Feb 08, 2016 21:57 IST
Pawan Negi, Harbhajan Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin during a practice session on the eve of the first T20 between India and Sri Lanka at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune on February 8, 2016. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

The focus on left-arm spinner Pawan Negi has been immense over the past couple of days. Even before delivering a single ball in India colours, the Delhi youngster was picked in the World Twenty20 squad and then landed a whopping Rs 8.5 crore deal at the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction.

So when India begin their three-match T20 series against Sri Lanka in Pune on Tuesday, fans will keenly follow Negi.

Despite the hype, it seems Negi is not a certainty in the playing eleven.

Dhoni hinted Negi would be used in place of seamer Hardik Pandya only if the conditions demand such a change.

“The team looks balanced right now. If we have a pitch which is on the slower side, then we can look to field someone like Pawan Negi in place of Pandya. But if that is not the case we have Pandya who can come in as a fast-bowling all-rounder. We also have part-timers like Yuvraj (Singh) who have done well with the ball and can cover as a good spin option,” Dhoni said.

During the training session at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium on Monday, the 23-year-old Negi was welcomed with a round of applause by his new teammates. He bowled a long spell in the nets alongside Harbhajan Singh.

India already have a packed bowling line-up with Ashish Nehra, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja and Pandya jostling for space. Pandya and Bumrah, the most recent entrants to the India side, produced eye-catching performances during India’s tour of Australia. So with no international experience behind him, it looks unlikely Negi will be picked ahead of Pandya.

Sri Lanka skipper Dinesh Chandimal suggested there is a hint of grass on the wicket. He added that dew will also be a factor on Tuesday.

Negi, who was picked by Delhi Daredevils, attracted the highest bid among all Indian players at the auction. Interestingly, the bid came just a day after he was surprisingly picked in the World T20 squad.

Incidentally, Negi had played with Dhoni in the T20 format at the suspended Chennai Super Kings franchise.

Dhoni had utilised Negi well. The spinner’s best performance for the Chennai outfit came in the 2014 Champions League T20 final, when he picked five for 22 to help the side lift the title.

In the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Negi took six wickets from nine matches, besides scoring 173 runs.

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