Bhuvneshwar Kumar named vice-captain, Chetan Sakariya and Nitish Rana among new faces in the mix
India will have to field a team in Sri Lanka shorn of its premier players because the main squad, captained by Virat Kohli, is currently in England getting ready for the inaugural World Test Championship final against New Zealand (June 18 onwards), followed by a five-Test series against England starting in August. That makes this the first instance of two senior Indian men’s teams operating simultaneously in bilateral series.
It is no surprise that four of the five uncapped players – Gowtham the exception – all made strong impressions in the last two seasons of the IPL. Padikkal and Gaikwad have been successful as openers at the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Chennai Super Kings respectively, while Rana has been a regular in the top order at the Kolkata Knight Riders for a few seasons, and pacer Sakariya made an impressive start to his stint with the Rajasthan Royals in the truncated 2021 edition.
Padikkal became the first Indian to hit four consecutive List A centuries, while opening for Karnataka during the Indian domestic Vijay Hazare 50-over tournament this year. Padikkal, who made his IPL debut with the Royal Challengers in IPL 2020, has 668 runs in 21 IPL matches at an average of 33.40 and a strike rate of 131.75.
Gaikwad, who has a healthy average of 47.87 in List A cricket, has scored five half-centuries in 13 IPL matches. As for Rana, the Knight Riders’ regular, he has 13 fifties in the IPL and a total of 1638 runs. He also has three centuries in List A cricket for Delhi in the domestic circuit.
Probably the biggest surprise in the squad, though, is Sakariya. The left-arm fast bowler from Saurashtra was bought by the Royals in the auction before the 2021 IPL for INR 1.2 crore (USD 164,000 approx.), which proved to be an inspired investment. Sakariya, 23, has picked up seven wickets in seven IPL matches so far, and his victims include MS Dhoni, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu and Rana.
For 32-year-old Gowtham, too, the India call-up means a step up from the fringes. He was included as a reserve bowler during the four-match home Test series against England recently and, during that series, he captured the headlines when he became the most expensive uncapped Indian player in the IPL when the Super Kings paid INR 9.25 crore (US$ 1,273,000 approx.) for him, beating bids from the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Knight Riders. In the 2020 IPL, too, Gowtham had bagged a massive sum from the Punjab Kings (then Kings XI Punjab), who released him after the season after fielding him in just two matches. Gowtham has 57 wickets in 35 List A matches for Karnataka and has a batting strike rate of 141.26 in List A and 159.24 in T20s respectively.
Squad: Shikhar Dhawan (capt), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (vice-capt), Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Nitish Rana, Ishan Kishan (wk), Sanju Samson (wk), Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, K Gowtham, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Chetan Sakariya
Net bowlers: Ishan Porel, Sandeep Warrier, Arshdeep Singh, R Sai Kishore, Simarjeet Singh
With inputs from Sampath Bandarupalli
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo