Indian Team Selection For Sri Lanka Series Could Be A Window Into The Future

2022 was in true sense a year of change in Indian cricket. The year started on a tense note as an off-the-field skirmish (read Kohli-Ganguly showdown) towards the end of 2021 saw the end of Virat Kohli’s reign as India’s limited overs captain. He had given up captaincy in T20Is earlier, but the promotion of Rohit Sharma as ODI captain for the South Africa series came as a shock for India’s premier batter, who was also on a quest to get back to peak form. As luck would have it, injury ruled Rohit out of the South Africa series and Kohli’s Test team lost the series despite taking the lead. It was the final blow as Kohli brought the curtains down on his Test captaincy too. It was an era when India truly played to win and won a lot more than it had ever in the past across formats. But an ICC trophy had eluded them.

This put the Rahul Dravid-Rohit Sharma duo firmly in charge of proceedings and for a man who had won five IPL titles, the ICC T20 World Cup was waiting to be picked up. But it wasn’t going to be that easy for Rohit and even the most ardent Indian cricket fans knew that the team was far from being the top contenders.

After a few bilateral home series, which India duly won, the cricket juggernaut arrived at the IPL. It was going to be the most important tournament for those looking to make it to the India squad for the T20 World Cup and many staked their claim with performances of note. But no one impressed more than a player who was all but written off just a few months ago.

Hardik Pandya rose from the ashes like a phoenix and took his new team Gujarat Titans along on the ride. As captain he was a mix of Dhoni and Kohli and as an all-rounder he was a cricketer reborn. An all-round Hardik, supported well by a mix of young and old stars, brought an end to the Mumbai-Chennai dominance as the Titans won the IPL.

Pandya’s return meant India had more options available and they tested them in the months to come as captaincy changed hands like a bank note. Rohit Sharma was well rested for the big tournaments and so was Virat Kohli, who had now fallen into an abyss of poor form, that many started believing he might find tough to come out of.

After a tame end to their Asia Cup campaign, India also failed to win the T20 World Cup, losing to England in the semifinals. The defeat was so resounding that it left Rohit in tears and gave Indian cricket faithfuls a clear view of what was wrong with the Indian team.

India was playing outdated cricket in T20Is, and this is something which had not changed since another semi-final loss in the 2016 T20 World Cup. The only good thing to come out of both these tournaments was the return of Virat Kohli, the world-class batter.

But how would this be fixed? Who had the answers? Could the selectors take the brave calls and blood in youngsters who could play fearless cricket?

The answers came through when the Indian team for the Sri Lanka series was announced. Rohit Sharma might have missed the T20Is due to injury and there might be news doing the rounds that Virat Kohli asked for rest, but the writing it seems is on the wall.

Hardik Pandya has been handed captaincy for the T20I series and it could well be a pattern in a year when India will concentrate more on ODIs due to the World Cup at home. Hardik, by the way, is also the vice captain in ODIs for the Sri Lanka series.

There is no KL Rahul or Rishabh Pant in the T20I squad, something which ideally should have happened before the T20 World Cup. But the good thing is that it has happened.

Suryakumar Yadav is the vice captain in T20Is, and rightly so, and should now be an indispensable part of the ODI team with someone like Shubman Gill. Yes, Gill is in for the ODIs as the expense of Shikhar Dhawan and it could very well signal the end of the road for the veteran Delhi batter.

The pace department has several new faces and it will be interesting to see who all get chances and how well they utilise them.

The Sri Lanka series team selection was the final assignment of the outgoing selection committee and it seems they kept their best for the last.

India’s squad for Sri Lanka T20Is: Hardik Pandya (Captain), Ishan Kishan (wk), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shubman Gill, Suryakumar Yadav (VC), Deepak Hooda, Rahul Tripathi, Sanju Samson, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, Umran Malik, Shivam Mavi, Mukesh Kumar.

India’s squad for Sri Lanka ODIs:Rohit Sharma (Captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya (VC), Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Mohd. Shami, Mohd. Siraj, Umran Malik, Arshdeep Singh.

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