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Deflated, but young Sri Lanka host India’s second-string eleven

India's Prithvi Shaw
India's Prithvi Shaw

After the Indian Test cricket team’s demoralizing defeat against the Blackcaps in the World Test Championship finals last month, at the Rose Bowl Cricket Ground, Southampton, and taking into consideration the poor recent Test cricket record of India in English conditions (with their last Test series win versus England in the UK was in 2007, which followed 3 consecutive test series losses in 2011, 2015 & 2018 respectively), the BCCI has decided to keep the Indian Test team in England for the upcoming 5 match Test series against the home side, with 1st Test match starting on 13th of August 2021.

Live Scores and Stats - India tour of Sri Lanka 2021

This decision was taken so that the Indian cricket team can acclimatize themselves to English conditions, where the red ball offers a considerable amount of swing & seam movement, which has been the downfall of India’s batsmen in the three recent test series against the Englishmen. Another reason for this unpredictable decision is the current COVID-19 situation, with traveling restrictions being implemented to ensure the safety of the players.

This decision, though, meant that some of India’s top cricket stars like Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, Ravinder Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah & above all, India’s most prolific player & their captain in all three formats of cricket Virat Kohli;  will not be able to tour Sri Lanka for the limited overs series starting on the 18th of July 2021 in Colombo.

The BCCI announced a young squad, led by one of India’s star batsman Shikhar Dhawan for the series against Sri Lanka, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar being the vice-captain. Without a hint of a doubt, this squad is India’s second-string limited overs squad, which will be coached by one of India’s finest veteran batsman Rahul Dravid, who also have the experience of coaching Indian U-19 cricket team & India’s A cricket team. The Indian squad for Sri Lanka’s limited over tour is:

India Squad -Shikhar Dhawan (captain), Devdutt Padikkal, Prithvi Shaw, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Nitish Rana, Ishan Kishan (Wicket Keeper), Sanju Samson (Wicket Keeper), Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Rahul Chahar, Yuzvendra Chahal, K Gowtham, Varun Chakravarthy, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Vice Captain), Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Chetan Sakariya

Although the Indian team might look a bit weaker because of their missing star players, the head coach of the team for this tour was very confident & crystal clear in his objectives. Rahul Dravid wants his youngsters to go for the kill & win the series, only gaining experience and match practice will not suffice. Before the Indian team’s departure to Colombo, Dravid said, ‘’there are a lot of people in the squad who are pushing for places ahead of the T-20 world cup coming up, but the key goal, and we’ve had discussions around it, is to try and win the series’’. He further added, ‘’ that is the primary objective. Hopefully if people can get the opportunity to put in some good performances, in the course of us trying to win the series, they will give themselves the best chance of knocking on the doors of the selectors’’.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka’s recent white ball form has been poor, with their last ODI series win coming against the West Indians back in February 2020. Sri Lanka’s dismal performance against the World Champions England in the recently concluded ODI series does not bode well for their confidence. Although, the Sri Lankan cricket team has been trying young, uncapped players because of the transformation period that they are going through, their performances have not been up to the standards of international cricket. In their last three recently concluded ODI series, they lost against West Indies and Bangladesh, & then were thrashed by England.

Sri Lanka cricket is going through a real bad patch, with their dismal performances on the field, they are not even finding any breathing space off the field as well. The recent dispute that is going on between the Sri Lankan Cricket Board and the players, regarding the contracts is already stealing the limelight from their series against India. With the Sri Lankan Cricket Board deciding to withdraw its offer of annual contracts, the decision has caused a lot of dismay among the players. On top of that, Sri Lankan team’s batting coach Grant Flower and their data analyst GT Niroshan tested positive for COVID-19, it meant that the Sri Lankans also might have to field a second-string team against the Indians. The situation got even gloomier for Sri Lanka as some of the players that were going to feature in the alternative squad against India were also tested positive for COVID-19. The series was supposed to start on the 13th of July, but because of the unforeseen impact of the ongoing pandemic, the starting date got delayed. Sri Lanka, finally, came up with their squad to face India, which comprises of following players:

Sri Lanka Squad - Dasun Shanaka (captain), Dhananjaya de Silva, Charith Asalanka, Ashen Bandara, Minod Bhanuka, Dushmantha Chameera, Akila Dananjaya, Wanindu Hasaranga, Shiran Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Avishka Fernando, Lahiru Udara, Ishan Jayaratne, Praveen Jayawickrama, Chamika Karunaratne, Lahiru Kumara, Dhananjaya Lakshan, Ramesh Mendis, Pathum Nissanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Kasun Rajitha, Lakshan Sandakan, Isuru Udana

With both the teams fielding young squads, the series can become exciting with all the young players showcasing their talent. Though, India’s young brigade will more likely be the favorites to come on top because their stints in Indian Premier League & in domestic circuit in India have been extremely impressive.

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This article was written by Waqas Mustafa, SkyInfoTech.

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