While Team India take on New Zealand and England in Test cricket over the next few months, a specialist white-ball side will tour Sri Lanka in July. The team will play three ODIs and three T20Is on their first tour of Sri Lanka since the 2018 Nidahas Trophy.
While the new-look Team India will miss several white-ball stars like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah, among others, it would be a great opportunity for the selectors to test the team’s bench strength.
The presence of quality backups has been immensely beneficial for Team India’s setup. So the Sri Lanka series now allows the management to have a ready group of players for white-ball cricket as well. This series will also help players showcase their skills as they vie for places in Team India’s squad for the T20 World Cup later this year.
Although the squad for the India vs Sri Lanka series is yet to be announced, let’s have a look at a 21-man Team India squad that could give the hosts a good run for their money.
Team India Batsmen
Shikhar Dhawan will likely don the role of senior batsman, as the likes of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma would be unavailable. The left-hander had a blistering IPL 2021 campaign, where he topped the run charts. So Shikhar Dhawan will look to keep his good form when Team India take on Sri Lanka.
Dhawan is likely to captain the side, too, so a consistent run could see him stake a claim for the opening slot in Team India’s T20 World Cup side.
Joining him in the squad and most likely in the opening role would be Prithvi Shaw. Many backed him to make Team India’s red-ball squad, but Prithvi Shaw is all but guaranteed a place for the Sri Lanka tour after he failed to make the Test team.
The youngster showed that his domestic form was no fluke by producing an impressive IPL 2021. So the Dhawan-Shaw duo, who dazzled for the Delhi Capitals (DC) in the T20 league, could join hands again in the coming months, this time in the international arena.
Team India are spoilt for choice when it comes to backup openers. Devdutt Padikkal is another player like Prithvi Shaw, who had a solid IPL 2021 campaign after a headline-grabbing domestic season. The youngster has been knocking on the doors of Team India for some time now, so handing him an opportunity in Sri Lanka may be the perfect way to test his mettle.
A left-field choice for the opening slot could be Ruturaj Gaikwad. The diminutive opener was outstanding at the top for CSK in IPL 2021, showing great temperament to bounce back after a slow start to his season. Players have been rewarded for their IPL performances in the past, so there is no reason why Ruturaj Gaikwad may not be on the plane to Sri Lanka.
Shreyas Iyer would have been a surety had he been fit, but the tournament may come too early for him. So Suryakumar Yadav is expected to keep his place in Team India’s white-ball setup. The Mumbai Indians star had an average IPL 2021 campaign, but the Sri Lanka tour would give him an opportunity to consolidate his place in the Indian team and play with freedom in the absence of other seasoned veterans.
Suryakumar Yadav is likely to play every game against Sri Lanka, so a strong showing could see him make the no. 3 spot his own ahead of Team India’s T20 World Cup campaign.
Team India need to have back-ups in case their first-choice players get injured, which is where Manish Pandey comes in. The Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) batsman was heavily criticised for his slow strike rate in IPL 2021, but Team India would do well to take an experienced player like him to Sri Lanka.
This is also likely to be Manish Pandey’s last chance to resurrect his international career, so it will be interesting to see whether he gets picked for the tour or not.
Team India Wicketkeepers
We have chosen two wicketkeepers in our probable Team India squad for the Sri Lanka tour. Both players are likely to be a part of the playing XI come the Sri Lanka series.
Ishan Kishan will have a point to prove after a disappointing IPL campaign, where he got dropped after five games. The swashbuckling batsman can play anywhere in the middle order and can also keep wickets.
Joining him in the middle order and in our squad would be Sanju Samson. The Rajasthan Royals (RR) captain had an outstanding IPL 2021 campaign, where he excelled with the bat. Samson silenced his critics with some sublime batting displays, so the Kerala star would fit well in Team India’s young middle order.
Team India All-rounders
The Sri Lanka series could be a dress rehearsal of sorts for Hardik Pandya, the all-rounder. With the T20 World Cup on the horizon, all eyes would be on Pandya to see if he can chip in with some overs consistently. The 27-year-old will also have greater leadership responsibility, as most of the white-ball regulars would be absent from the XI.
Joining him would be Krunal Pandya, who recently made his ODI debut for Team India. With first-team all-rounders like Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Washington Sundar away on red-ball duty, Krunal Pandya is the first choice when it comes to spin-bowling all-rounders for Team India.
While Hardik and Krunal are likely to be sure-shot starters, Team India will need to take some handy backups in case one of them gets injured or suffers loss of form. Rahul Tewatia could be the ideal backup for Krunal Pandya, as the Haryana player is able to bowl tight spells and also finish games with aplomb.
The fast bowling all-rounder backup slot didn’t have too many options. So we have gone with Vijay Shankar instead of Shivam Dube. The latter had a disastrous IPL 2021 campaign, while Vijay Shankar has experience of playing outside India and could be a valuable addition to the side.
Team India Fast bowlers
Despite taking six quicks to England, it is a testament to Team India’s bench strength that they could still have an enviable fast-bowling group to take on Sri Lanka.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar should be the leader of the pack, as the fast-bowler could be raring to go after a quiet IPL 2021 campaign. Supporting him could be India’s T20 specialist Deepak Chahar, who was menacing with the ball in the powerplay in the IPL this season. Navdeep Saini should be in contention as well after not getting too many chances with RCB in IPL 2021.
Backing them up could be Jaydev Unadkat and Harshal Patel. Unadkat would offer variety in the bowling line-up with his left-arm pace and was impressive with the Rajasthan Royals this season. Another option could be young Chetan Sakariya, but the tour may come a bit too early for him.
The final fast bowler in Team India’s squad for the Sri Lanka tour could be Purple Cap holder Harshal Patel.
Deepak Chahar is more effective up top, so Harshal Patel could fulfil the death-bowling duties for Team India in Sri Lanka. After an IPL 2021 campaign where he was RCB’s go-to bowler, the 30-year-old deserves a shot at the international stage.
Team India Spinners
Team India have a slew of options when it comes to spinners. Rahul Chahar usurped Yuzvendra Chahal during the T20Is series against England, so it would be interesting to see whether that status quo is maintained in Sri Lanka.
The two leg-spinners may be in a straight fight for the lone spinner’s spot in Team India’s T20 World Cup side. They’ll will have the Sri Lanka tour to prove their credentials. Meanwhile, Varun Chakravarthy had a solid IPL 2021 campaign and could be part of the team if he can prove his fitness.
Kuldeep Yadav’s Test career has been in freefall after he was excluded from the side that will travel to England. The left-arm wrist-spinner will have an opportunity to force himself back into white-ball reckoning in Sri Lanka but could firmly begin the tour as Team India’s fourth-choice spin-bowling option, at best.
This 21-man squad offers Team India a variety of players to choose from and is a perfect blend of youth and experience. With proven match-winners, this squad could be good enough to beat Sri Lanka in their backyard.
Team India’s probable 21-man squad for the upcoming Sri Lanka tour:
Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Suryakumar Yadav, Devdutt Padikkal, Manish Pandey, Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Rahul Tewatia, Vijay Shankar, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat, Harshal Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Varun Chakravarthy, Rahul Chahar, Kuldeep Yadav.