Cricket

Indian cricket team eyes smooth transition

Indian cricket team eyes smooth transition

After several experiments over the past month in the three limited series to identify staff for the T20 World Cup later this year, the Indian cricket team will now officially kick off the transition phase into the long format as they are contested in a two-match Test series against Sri Lanka at Mohali from Friday.

Since manager Ravi Shastri handed over to Rahul Dravid last year after the T20 World Cup, massive changes have taken place in Indian cricket. Virat Kohli, the once almighty force, has completely abdicated his throne in search of personal batting form with his counterpart Rohit Sharma, batting like a dream, wearing the crown with a smile and confidence.

And when Rohit leads India to the Test Whites draw for the first time in his career on Friday at the PCA Stadium, three members who were integral to the Kohli era will also be missing. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, who brilliantly replaced Kohli’s absence, were transferred to the Ranji Trophy as the selectors finally cut the long rope offered to the underperforming duo. The ax fell on veteran dressmaker Ishant Sharma and wicketkeeper Wridhhiman Saha, with coach Dravid no doubt his aim is to prepare the next group of youngsters to take Indian cricket forward.

Also read: I want to build on what Kohli posed: Rohit Sharma

The two games against Sri Lanka offer a big chance for youngsters aspiring to fill the places vacated by Pujara and Rahane – the first time in 10 years India will play a Test without one of them in the XI. game. The contenders for these big shoes are Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Hanuma Vihari and even Mayank Agarwal.

Rohit did not commit the day before the match on who would make the cut, but with KL Rahul, captain of the Indian team in South Africa, absent due to injury, several permutations and combinations are possible. If management chooses to play Agarwal as the opener, then Gill, Iyer and Vihari will have to fight for the two mid-order slots. But if Gill, hailed as the future of Indian cricket, gets the nod as fly-half then Agarwal may have to sit out and Iyer and Vihari will most certainly play.

Given that Rahul will occupy the regular opening slot upon his return, Agarwal will likely partner Rohit on top in the near term, meaning the battle for the two slots will be between Gill, Iyer and Vihari. In the limited opportunities they have, all three have made their case and management will burn the midnight oil to get the combo right.

If we talk about similar replacement for Pujara, then Vihari fits the bill perfectly. Like Pujara, he is a stubborn batsman who relies heavily on his strong defenses. Considering India has plenty of shot makers, Vihari is the perfect man to hold an end while others flourish around him. In difficult bowling conditions, he can show extreme patience and tire opposing bowlers. That said, Vihari can also beat lower in the order as he has largely done in overseas conditions for the team.

Also read: Pujara, Rahane and Pandya downgraded in central BCCI contracts

Gill is too good a drummer to ignore. Naturally gifted and quick, the time has come for India to invest in and support the 22-year-old. He hasn’t scored a century in the 10 Tests he’s played so far and teams have found weaknesses in his stick, but Gill, with proper supervision and support, can end up being a solid number one. 3 despite being a more natural opener.

The shape Shreyas Iyer is in after being benched for the West Indies T2oI series because there was no room for him in a talent laden squad, it would be foolish to look past him. He shattered a century on his Test debut against New Zealand at home last November and took Sri Lanka to submission in the T20I series. Iyer has this ability to be an all-format reader.

The answer to the above will be known on Friday morning.

Teams:

India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hanuma Vihari, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Jayant Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Kona Bharat (wk) , Umesh Yadav, Saurabh Kumar, Priyank Panchal.

Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Dhanajaya De Silva, Charith Asalanka, Dushmantha Chammeera, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella, Lasith Embuldeniya, Vishwa Fernando, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Lahiru Kumara, Kusal Mendis (wk), Pathum Nssanka, Jeffrey Vandersay, Praveen Jayawickrama, Chamika Karunaratne.