The Indian selectors have announced a 17-member squad for the limited overs leg of the England tour, which consists of five One-Day Internationals and one Twenty20 match.
Most of the familiar names like MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli are back in the squad after taking a break for the three-match series in Bangladesh which took place just before the England tour. The team also includes two first-timers in the squad in the form of Sanju Samson and Karn Sharma.
Sanju Samson is one of the most talked-about teenagers in India thanks to his fearless batting in the last two Indian Premier Leagues and the 2013 Champions League T20.
In 2013, he also had a pretty productive Ranji Trophy, India’s premier domestic first-class tournament, with a century and a double-century to his name.
Just last month, Samson was part of the touring India team in Australia to participate in the A-team tournament along with Australia and South Africa. He was the highest scorer for India in that tournament scoring 244 runs with an average of 81.33 along with carrying the responsibility of keeping wicket for his team.
In the first match of the series he scored a fighting 81 in losing cause. For the rest of the series he chipped in with useful contribution in the lower middle-order.
After the tour, Abhay Sharma, the India A coach showered Samson with praise and marked him out for achieving great success in future. On the other hand Samson himself mentioned that these opportunities made him better prepared for batting in the middle order.
India ODI/T20I squad
MS Dhoni (captain), Ravichandran Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Dhawal Kulkarni, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Sanju Samson, Mohammad Shami, Karn Sharma, Mohit Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav
Samson belongs to the southern state of Kerala, not a traditional power house in India's domestic setup.
He has come up the ranks through various age-group formats. He was one of the key player as well as the vice-captain for the Indian team in the 2014 Under-19 World Cup in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
Like Ajinkya Rahane, Samson has also benefited from the presence of Rahul Dravid in his IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals. The team management showed great faith on Samson by sending him to bat in the top order and it was well rewarded with Samson’s aggressive batting and magnificent stroke play.
It’s definitely a point to note that Samson’s wicket-keeping skills still require development in a few areas and his selection in the limited overs squad is due to the long-term vision of the Indian selectors who definitely want to keep Samson in the mix of Indian wicket-keepers - especially envisaging n a scenario where MS Dhoni may hang up his boots from one or two formats of the game after the World Cup next year.
12 years back India gave a debut to their 17-year-old wicket-keeper in Nottingham. In the second innings Parthiv Patel batted for an hour and half facing a barrage of deliveries from Hoggard, Flintoff, Harmison and Cork to ensure that England did not get any sniff to grab an unlikely late win.
But despite the early success Parthiv’s career never took off. If India gives a debut to Sanju Samson in this tour they will definitely hope for a much more prosperous career for him.
The story of Karn Sharma is an interesting one. In 2007, Sharma made his first-class debut for Railways in the Ranji Trophy.
He was selected primarily as a lower middle-order batsman and scored a century on debut. Although that remains his only first-class century, in recent years he has made his name more as a tricky leg-spinner in the domestic circuit.
After a fruitful Ranji Trophy 2012/13 season Sharma was picked by the Sunrisers Hyderabad for the 2013 IPL.
He was a relatively unknown commodity then but with 11 wickets in 13 matches he became one of the regular members in the team by end of the tournament and formed a potent partnership with Amit Mishra, the more experienced leg-spinner in the team.
England v India - remaining fixtures
15th-19th August: 5th Test, The Kia Oval
25th August: 1st ODI, Bristol
27th August: 2nd ODI, SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff
30th August: 3rd ODI, Trent Bridge, Nottingham
2nd September: 4th ODI, Edgbaston, Birmingham
5th September: 5th ODI, Headingley, Leeds
7th September: T20I, Edgbaston, Birmingham
Despite the notion that leg-spinners at times struggle to maintain control Sharma actually maintained a brilliant economy rate of 6.60 throughout the tournament.
In January 2014, all the players were put up for a new auction in the Indian Premier League. Along with international players, even uncapped Indian players were put up on auction for the first time.
Sharma’s base price was around £29,000 GBP (INR 3,000,000) and after an intensive bidding war between four teams, Sunrisers finally got their man back for around £365,000 GBP (INR 37,500,000), more than 12 times his base price. He was the highest priced uncapped Indian player in the tournament.
Sunrisers Hyderabad’s faith was rewarded as Sharma finished as their second most successful bowler with 15 wickets although the team finished a disappointing sixth.
In ODIs and T20s India tend to use quite a few all-rounders in their team and Sharma fits the bill quite perfectly, although he needs to fight with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja for his place in the starting line up which may not be an easy job.
For both Samson and Sharma, this tour is more of a learning experience and the chances of them being picked in the first team looks slim.
Having said that, India is already 2-1 down in the Test series, another loss in the last Test starting on Friday (15th August) may push the selectors to try these new faces as part of their ongoing search for the final combination for the World Cup next year.
© Cricket World 2014