India will mark depth of talent with Sri Lanka limited-overs tour

Updated on Jun 27, 2021 09:26 PM IST

With the Virat Kohli-led side touring England to play Tests, next month’s short series will also prove there is no shortage of star power in Indian cricket

Shikhar Dhawan will lead India in the Sri Lanka tour. (Getty Images) PREMIUM
Shikhar Dhawan will lead India in the Sri Lanka tour. (Getty Images)
BySanjjeev K Samyal, Mumbai

Indian cricket will soon be the envy of the cricket world when it showcases its bench strength in a limited-overs series in Sri Lanka while the Test squad continues preparations for the series in England.

Their commercial appeal and a heavy demand from all cricket playing countries for a tour by India has led to the talk whether having two teams playing at different places will become the norm in the future.

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Coach Rahul Dravid expects that to be the case for now, although any long term plan will have to be well thought out.

“Short-term, in terms of the situation and quarantine and so on, yes this is the answer—eases pressure on the team. It’s becoming difficult for players to go through the same kind of restrictions that are in place at this point in time. Long term, it’ll need a lot more discussion,” the former India captain told the media on the eve of the team’s departure.

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While there have been other countries that had a lot of depth to put up more than one squad, like West Indies in the 1980s and Australia of the 1990s, for international tours to be a commercial success in the present day, having star value is of importance. That’s where this team to Sri Lanka stands out. With the likes of Hardik Pandya, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Prithvi Shaw, there’s no dearth of star appeal that advertisers seek; not to mention the massive brand value Dravid himself commands.

“With the quarantine being as strict as it is at this point, travel between countries becomes very restricted. It also becomes hard to complete the tours and complete our engagements. Maybe this might have to be done or followed. India didn’t have an option,” he said on the England and Sri Lanka tours overlapping.

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For the players and the team management, the T20 series carries added value as the three games are their only matches before this year’s T20 World Cup, hosted by India and likely to be held in the UAE. The team management in England will no doubt keenly follow the performances in Sri Lanka. Dravid said two selectors are accompanying the squad while he himself would co-ordinate with Virat Kohli & Co.

“These are the only games before the T20 World Cup and am sure the selectors and management have a fair idea by now on the squad they are looking for. It’s a chance for a few people to push for the one or two spots the management may be looking at, just to give them a few more options over the next few T20s. I’ve had a little bit of contact with the team management in England, didn’t want to disturb them during the WTC, but will touch base over the next couple of weeks on what their plans are.”

It will be an ideal opportunity for the youngsters to make a case. For 21-year-old Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal (20), Ruturaj Gaikwad (24) and Ishan Kishan (22), it’s not just an opportunity to showcase their skills—they will go with the confidence they are long-term prospects.

Dravid, who has had a big hand in their development as he has worked with them since their U-19 days, said: “It’s crucial for a lot more people other than Prithvi. Obviously, this is a crucial tour for Padikkal or Ruturaj or… a lot of the younger boys who have come into the set-up. They would all be keen do well and set a marker (for the selectors). That doesn’t mean it’s a life-and-death situation, it doesn’t mean if you don’t have a good tour of Sri Lanka, you’ll never make it. Neither does that mean that if you do well against Sri Lanka, you automatically make it. There’s a lot that goes into it.”

India, captained by Shikhar Dhawan, will play three ODIs (July 13, 16, 18) and T20s (July 21, 23, 25) with all games to be played in Colombo.

Shikhar Dhawan on top order approach

In their preparation for the T20 World Cup, skipper Virat Kohli has set down the marker for the top-order to play freely and shun pacing the innings. It was tried out in the last home T20 series against England, putting pressure on Dhawan and KL Rahul to adapt. Dhawan’s normal approach is to spend time at the crease and build on it. Explaining his experience and game plan for the top-order, Dhawan said: “It is very important for the top-order to stay long over there—give a good start in the first six overs and then take the innings long from there. It is important to pace the innings. Of course, whatever the team’s demand, the player will go and play. We are going to discuss and communicate, play according to the situation and what the game demands. The boys know how to handle their roles; we’re looking forward to that.”

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