New Crop—full of beans to bulldoze its way to prominence
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A new-look Indian side is waiting to unfurl its potential in what promises to be a compelling white-ball series.
The bilateral series comprising three T20I and three ODIs, beginning November 18, will give a peek into the thriving Indian bench-strength to live its dream.
The time is ripe for several of these young prospects to grab centre-stage. The absence of top Indian stars has given an opportunity to the likes of Shubman Gill, Umran Malik, Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer, left-arm spinner and allrounder Shahbaz Ahmed and debutant pacer Kuldeep Sen in the ODIs to make a strong case for themselves.
These are golden times for Indian cricket that is enjoying an abundance of talent. Finding a place in this Indian squad is a prodigious task. Often, it is a saga of unrelenting competition between exceptionally talented cricketers.
A case in point is wicket-keeper-batsman Ishan Kishan. His fluent batsmanship got him early eye-balls but he could never get a long enough run in the T20I team. This year Kishan showed good form in the five-match T20I series against South Africa at home. The 24-year-old from Jharkhand was the highest run scorer with 206 runs in five matches, that included two fifties, at a strike rate of 150.36. The attacking left-hander even made a case for selection in the T20I world cup but missed out. Since his junior days, Kishan has competed for a place in the team with none-other than Rishabh Pant, also a swashbuckling left-handed wicket-keeper, who held an edge over him by his sheer ability to win matches single-handedly.
Kishan still needs to find his feet against pacers, improve his strike rate in T20Is and show more consistency in ODIs. In 9 ODI innings, he has scored 267 runs at an average of 33.37 with his best being 93 against South Africa in Ranchi last month. The New Zealand series could well be his breakthrough series as he features in both T20Is and ODIs.
Also keen to be counted will be another precociously talented batter from this generation: Shubman Gill. The 23-year-old from Punjab caught attention with his flamboyant strokeplay, and penchant to score big.
Incidentally, Gill made his ODI debut against New Zealand at Seddon Park, Hamilton in 2019, and he will now be intent on starting his T20I journey with a bang. The lanky right-hand batter will take encouragement from a stunning IPL 2022 season, where he plundered 483 runs in 16 games and was the fifth-highest run-getter of the tournament.
Gill has been exquisite in the ODIs too, pocketing two back-to-back Player of the Series awards against the West Indies and Zimbabwe recently.
His average of 57.90 from 12 ODIs makes him a strong candidate for the World Cup at home. India has been struggling for a solid No.4 since the 2019 World Cup. And Gill, who normally opens an innings, can be explored as an option.
Likewise, the series can also be defining for Shreyas Iyer, who has experienced the extreme vagaries of fate. A shoulder injury last year kept him out for six months, a time that cost him the place in the core group after becoming a regular at No.4.
The 27-year-old Mumbaikar is now back with gusto, and in his last six ODI outings he has clobbered 3 fifties and one century. For someone, who scored his first ODI series against New Zealand in Hamilton in 2020, the upcoming white-ball series can be an ideal platform for him to strengthen his return to the pecking order.
For wicket-keeper batter Sanju Samson too it will be another opportunity to show his mettle and fight for a permanent spot in the shorter formats. The explosive Kerala batsman made his international debut for India T20 side in 2015 but had to wait for another four and half years to be considered again in this format. In fact, Samson has appeared in only 16 T20Is in seven years, his lone half-century coming against Ireland in June. His batting record, however, remains exceptional in the Indian Premier League.
The 28-year-old has been unlucky to lose out to others, missing the cut for both Asia Cup and T20 World Cup. The calls to give him a longer run has been growing louder with selectors assuring he exists in their scheme of things.
Samson made his ODI debut against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 2021, but faced a one-year gap for another look in. It was only in India’s tour of West Indies in July, he featured in his second ODI, stroking 54. This year Samson has featured in total 9 ODIs, being part of Indian teams against Zimbabwe and South Africa in the absence of key campaigners. Flexible to bat at any position now, Samson has impressed with his consistency this year.
The call-up for the New Zealand series, where he is included in both T20 and ODI squads could be decisive for Kerala superstar.
India enjoying a pace bowling revolution
New Zealand, washed in late spring, is a dream destination for the fast bowlers. India, earlier known to produce medium-pacers at best, is now bursting with a rare speed revolution. Umran Malik is the latest addition to the Indian pace battery, and a rather unusual one at that.
The 22-year-old from Srinagar has searing pace that can rock the stumps of quality batters. It quickly got him promoted from a net bowler to Sunrisers Hyderabad’s main squad. Malik was the flavour of the IPL, regularly clocking 150 kph. Picking 22 wickets from 14 games, he finished among top-5 IPL bowlers this season.
Malik’s IPL debut even got the cricketing world excited. His raw pace drew comparisons with greats Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar and Shaun Tait. Such was his impact that Malik was fast-tracked into the Indian team, featuring in three T20Is in Ireland and England. The young speed gun is included in both T20I and ODI squads for the New Zealand series. It is still early days for Malik, but he is one bowler whose performances would be keenly followed in pace-friendly conditions in New Zealand.
Another speedster who shot to limelight with his exploits in IPL 2022 is Arshdeep Singh. The left-arm bowler does not possess express pace like Malik but he has proved himself to be exceptional in the death overs. In the absence of injured Jasprit Bumrah in the T20I World Cup, Arshdeep soothed the Indian anxiety with his control of the ball and cool temperament. The 23-year-old from Guna has the ability to swing the new ball and produce yorkers in the dying stages.
A member of India's triumphant ICC Under-19 World Cup squad in 2018, Arshdeep made his international debut only in July but in a short span he has cemented his place in the T20I side. He became the go-to bowler for captain Rohit Sharma in the crucial stages of this T20I World Cup, and remarkably held his own. Playing in front of a roaring 90,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Arshdeep produced a devastating spell with the new ball in the high-pressure opening game against Pakistan, removing both openers, captain Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan. His figures of 3/32 brilliantly set up the match for India.
Arshdeep will not only look to make his ODI debut in New Zealand but make an impact too.
The Indian pace department has a new face in Kuldeep Sen. Sen was a revelation with his raw pace for the Rajasthan Royals in IPL this season. The 26-year-old attracted the spotlight when bowling against the Lucknow SuperGiants, defending 15 runs in the last over with Marcus Stoinis on crease. The Madhya Pradesh paceman will take heart from his match haul of eight for 135 that guided Rest of India to victory against Saurashtra in Irani Cup last month.
Also hoping to take forward his tenacious cricket journey will be left-arm-spin-bowling allrounder Shahbaz Ahmed. The 27-year-old’s breakthrough Ranji Trophy season for Bengal came in 2019-20. The all-rounder scored 509 runs with the bat and bagged 35 wickets and was instrumental in Bengal reaching the finals. In the recent IPL season, Shahbaz became one of the mainstays for Royal Challengers Bangalore and impressed during the ODI home series against South Africa at home. The three match ODI series could be crucial for him.
A good performance in overseas tours not only adds to the confidence of a player but also brings him to the spotlight. In that sense, the New Zealand series will mark a fresh beginning for several players who are looking to cement their places in the side and make it a breakthrough moment in their careers.
Catch the T20Is on 18th, 20th and 22nd November beginning 11 am, and ODIs on 25th, 27th and 30th November beginning 6 am, only on Prime Video.
Disclaimer: This article has been produced on behalf of Amazon Prime Video by HT Brand Studio.