Why the Indian team in Sri Lanka is not second-string
First things first, this is not a second-string Indian team. India’s Test team is in England and in Sri Lanka we have the Indian T20 team. Barring only a few players, this is India’s full strength T20 team.
A second-string team is when an entirely different squad is put up by a country in the same format. Like Australia did famously in 1994 in a quadrangular in Australia where the Australian A team beat two other international teams to make it to a best of three finals versus the senior Australian side. Those were days when Australian cricket was in robust health. I would like to think that India’s T20 cricket too is in fine shape.
There are some truly dynamic T20 players in this Indian team in SL, some who will even challenge the incumbent, big names of Indian cricket.
Considering this is the T20 World Cup year, I will focus more on India’s T20 side than the ODI side.
Let’s start with Prithvi Shaw. Extremely flashy, yes, but extremely dangerous too.
He hits boundaries against good balls, a great asset to have if you are batting in the first six overs of a T20 game. If it’s his day, he will put his team so far ahead in the game that the others would have to only stroll to the finish line.
What makes Shaw great value in a T20 team is that he does not put too big a price on his wicket, unlike some batters who can drag a team back by instinctively not wanting to get out. Selflessness and fearlessness are two great attributes to have, especially in T20 cricket. Shaw has these qualities.
Then we have Surya Kumar Yadav -- an ideal no 3. Like Shaw, he too will hit boundaries off good balls, but unlike Shaw he will do that playing non-risky shots. Like creaming a short of length ball, bowled at the stumps through the covers, along the ground. Zero risk, high returns. Very few batsmen have been able to sustain T20 form and quality batsmanship like Yadav has in the last 2-3 years.
Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson are again examples of the wealth of T20 talent Indian cricket currently has, both devastating batsmen who can don keeping gloves. Personally, I would give Ishan a game before Samson, based purely on better consistency.
Both interestingly have also showed chinks in their temperaments. Samson, for a while now, shows only sparks of brilliance in a long season, which suggests a clear temperament issue. While Ishan, the moment he had a couple of low scores last IPL, seemed to be flooded with self-doubt.
Hopefully this kind of a tour could help get their minds stronger. Who better than Rahul Dravid to enable that? These two batters give India exciting options alongside the obvious first choice batter-keeper, the classy K L Rahul.
In the bowling department we have a young Chetan Sakaria who impressed me thoroughly in the last IPL.
For one so young and new at this level, it was amazing to see his team use him the way India use Jasprit Bumrah. Sakariya would bowl in the first six overs, then come in the middle to control things and finish off bowling those crucial, game- deciding death overs.
Anyone who can do this shows he has a wide range of skills -- a captain’s delight really. That he is a left-arm seamer is an added bonus for India.
There are as many as six spinning options in this squad, of which four are genuine spinners, your guaranteed ‘four overs’ bowlers.
We know Chahal well, but the others--Kuldeep Yadav, Rahul Chahar and Varun Chakraborty--have enough ability that if India have to play them, even in the T20 World Cup, it won’t weaken India one bit.
Varun Chakraborty is our very own Sunil Narine. He has the same kind of body language but with slightly different skills and an action that doesn’t arouse suspicion like Narine’s unfortunately did.
On a big stage you can expect Chakraborty to rise to the occasion and even be a game changer against good opposition. He has the requisite skills and the temperament too.
Rahul Chahar, unlike Chahal and Chakraborty, is a more classical spinner. He is quick and can get turn and bounce on non-turners. If a pitch is flat, Chahal and Kuldeep, despite being attractive options, can be risky to bowl. This is where Chahar gives you a potentially less expensive wicket-taking option in the middle overs.
These are of course the ‘new kids on the block’, so to say, but in Shikhar Dhawan and Hardik Pandya, India has two game changers with experience. I like the fact that the selectors have not been completely influenced by the IPL in their selection. Kuldeep and Manish Pandey get another chance to show that they still have enough for Indian cricket to stay invested in them. I will be surprised if Sri Lanka puts one over this Indian team.
Not second string, just one that’s missing five regular players.