Maiden call-ups came thick and fast as the selection panel handpicked the touring party for India’s limited-overs sojourn to Sri Lanka. The visitors will have to field a team shorn of its crown jewels because the frontline squad is currently in England going through the preparatory gears for the inaugural World Test Championship final against New Zealand, followed by a five-Test series against England kicking off in August.
Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Chetan Sakariya, Nitish Rana and Krishnappa Gowtham will get their first taste of international flavour, while Varun Chakravarthy, who missed the bus on fitness grounds twice, could be a candidate for the ‘third-time lucky’ concept.
The IPL is the new minting hub of Indian cricket, and it comes as no surprise that four of the five uncapped recruits, barring Gowtham, packed a punch in the last two seasons of the tournament. With textbook shots at the heart of their modus operandi, Padikkal and Gaikwad have flourished at the top of the order for Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings respectively.
Rana sets the tone up front for Kolkata Knight Riders thanks to his bottom-handed panache, and pacer Sakariya was the find of the truncated 2021 edition. The left-armer doesn’t exactly send the speed gun soaring, but the tricks he holds up his sleeve are many and meticulous.
The Quint takes you through a quick recap of their exploits that eventually brought about the level upgrade.
Padikkal owns the distinct record of being the first Indian to hit four consecutive List A centuries, while opening for Karnataka during the Vijay Hazare Trophy this year. His purple patch read a scarcely digestible 52, 97, 152, 126*, 145*, 101, and 64. No wonder he’s made the giant leap to national colours.
The precociously talented southpaw, who registered his IPL debut for RCB in IPL 2020, has 668 runs in 21 IPL matches at an average of 33.40 and a strike rate of 131.75. Padikkal beat the living daylights out of Rajasthan Royals to notch up his first ton in the league, an aesthetic carnage that all but stamped the seal of approval on his pedigree.
Consistency is Ruturaj Gaikwad’s middle name. Boasting an average of 47.87 in the List A sphere, the right-handed rock has quietly netted five half-centuries in 13 IPL games. He puts a heavy price on his wicket and goes about his business in rather orthodox fashion ala Kohli, although his range-hitting credentials would do with a bit of touch up.
Gaikwad has for long been knocking at the selectors’ door as his run tally for India A grew by leaps and bounds. The disco deck of the IPL helped barge it open. The run-machine might warm the bench in the T20 leg of the neighbourhood stint but should, in all likelihood, prance into the ODI eleven.
Guilty of blowing hot and cold in the past, Nitish Rana seems to have injected some sense of order into his performances. The brawny dasher topped the run charts for Kolkata in IPL 2021 before the plug was pulled in the wake of the second and most lethal wave of COVID-19 in India. He has 13 fifties in the IPL with an aggregate of 1638 runs to go with three hundreds for Delhi in the domestic circuit.
Rana stands apart from the crowd in terms of his ability to dismiss the spinners from his very presence. He is blessed with muscular forearms and utilizes them to good effect when taking the aerial route. There are shades of Gautam Gambhir, who also happens to be his mentor, in the grace with which he goes inside out over cover or launches the slog sweep to perfection.
A game-changer when on song, Rana would look forward to cashing in on the opportunities lying ahead since they come at a premium in the breakneck atmosphere that is prevalent.
Gowtham, a top-grade three-dimensional cricketer, has a knack of instigating bidding wars at IPL auctions. His all-round services cost CSK an arm and a leg, a whopping Rs 9.25 crore to be precise, as he became the most expensive uncapped Indian cricketer in the history of the slam-bang bonanza. Alas, for all the headlines drawn by his fat paychecks over the years, chances for Gowtham to showcase his mettle in the IPL have been far and few in between.
It’s the steady, smart accumulation of runs and wickets in the domestic arena that keeps him in the reckoning for national selection. 57 wickets in 35 List A affairs via his penny-pinching off-spin for Karnataka and a batting strike rate of 159.24 in T20s is no mean feat after all.
The hunt is on for a specialized finisher to accompany Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja for the T20 World Cup, and the long-levered Gowtham could well fit the bill. The bilateral series in Sri Lanka is the immediate stepping stone in sight.
The India call-up is bound to be a bittersweet moment for Chetan Sakariya, who lost his elder brother and father within a span of two months. A curious pick in the squad, the military medium from Saurashtra was bought by the Royals in the auction leading up to IPL 2021 for INR 1.2 crore which proved to be an inspired investment.
Sakariya, 23, has the small matter of seven wickets in seven games but his victims are none other than the accomplished MS Dhoni, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu and Rana.
Death overs have seen many a bowler being dumped to the knacker’s yard but Sakariya has executed escapes to return an economy of 8.3, least among those who played five or more games in IPL 2021. The rookie has been thrown into the deep end and has always swam out unscathed. Can he replicate his heroics on the big stage? Time will tell.
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