NEW DELHI: While India prepares for the bigger ‘Test’ in the English conditions, back near home, another India squad is in Sri Lanka and will begin the six-match limited-overs tour with the first ODI on Saturday.
Touted as an audition for the vacant T20 World Cup spots, the tour also offers an in-depth look into India’s bench-strength, which is what interests former India batsman VVS Laxman the most.
“Over the last several months, much talk has centered around the depth in Indian cricket, and the immense bench-strength the country is able to summon. Further reiteration of the surfeit of quality comes in the shape of the white-ball contests in Sri Lanka even as 24 players are away in England for a Test series,” Laxman wrote in his column for The Times of India.
The squad in Sri Lanka is led by Shikhar Dhawan, with Rahul Dravid as the coach.
“There is a truly formidable look to the Shikhar Dhawan-led side even in the absence of several white-ball specialists. I am particularly happy for Shikhar, whose consistency and seniority have been rewarded with the captaincy of the national side,” said the famous Test specialist.
Besides the responsibility to lead the team, Dhawan would be looking to strengthen his run-scoring form and confirm a place in the squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup later this year in the UAE.
“It’s a great opportunity for him (Dhawan) to not just showcase his leadership skills, but also nail down his place ahead of the T20 World Cup, given the competition for places at the top of the batting order,” Laxman added.
“Admittedly, while this is India’s only limited-overs outing before the T20 World Cup, the immediate focus will be on winning both series in Rahul Dravid’s first assignment as senior India coach.”
(Coach Rahul Dravid, left, and Shikhar Dhawan – PTI Photo)
Laxman believed the fact that most of the youngsters in the squad have already worked with Dravid at the India A or Under-19 level augurs well for India.
“Most players in the squad have worked with Rahul previously, either with India ‘A’ and Under-19 or at the NCA, and have clearly benefited from his wisdom. I am sure they will be better off for this experience because Rahul is a terrific mentor, cricket-wise and beyond. In the past, Rahul has stressed on making sure everyone in the squad gets at least one game,” he wrote.
“That philosophy is certain to give way to a strong emphasis on winning.”
The former middle-order Test stalwart also stressed on the fact that the players need to be given a long run in order to prove themselves.
“I’d like to see blossoming talent such as Prithvi Shaw, Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan, and the more experienced duo of Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav, being given an uninterrupted run,” Laxman said.
He also had a piece on advice on how to use the spinners travelling with the squad in Sri Lanka.
“One of the problem areas for Indian cricket in recent times has been the lack of efficacy of the spinners. Against that backdrop, it’s imperative that Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav play in tandem in the 50-over format, and blood Varun Chakravarthy in the shortest version.
“All are wicket-takers, and their confidence will only be enhanced if they play regularly, get overs under their belt and pick up wickets,” Laxman concluded.