Meet the five new faces in Team India 

From Nitish Rana to Chetan Sakariya - the new look Indian team is ready to display the solid bench strength in Sri Lanka.

Chetan Sakariya in action for Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2021.   -  SPORTZPICS

Five Indian cricketers will be in line for an international debut in the limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka in July — Nitish Rana, Devdutt Padikkal, Krishnappa Gowtham, Chetan Sakariya and Ruturaj Gaikwad.

The swing of Sakariya

Among the five, Sakariya perhaps needed it the most. The left-arm seamer from Saurashtra lost his father, Kanjibhai, to COVID-19 after returning home from his maiden Indian Premier League season with Rajasthan Royals.  His family had to walk through a lot of thorns to fund the cricketing gear. And this is a perfect tribute to this late father.

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Sakariya picked up seven wickets in as many games in the IPL and among the batters he dismissed, there is M. S. Dhoni, K. L. Rahul and Jonny Bairstow to name a few.  The youngster has a natural swing. He polished his line-and-length and increased speed by spending time with Glenn McGrath and the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai. "Earlier, I could only swing the ball. I touched 130 after correcting my action. My body would drop during release. The MRF camp with Glenn sir helped me improve on the action, fitness as well as line-and-length. He analysed my action in the video footage and suggested corrections," says Sakariya.

Krishnappa Gowtham

Gowtham said it was a dream come true for him to be playing for India.   -  SUDHAKARA JAIN


Gowtham not chasing milestones

Karnataka spin-bowling all-rounder Gowtham is among the six uncapped players who will travel to Sri Lanka for the limited-overs series. And, he is happy to be living his dream.

The 32-year-old has been a consistent performer for his State and after bagging 166 first-class, 70 List A and 42 T20 wickets, Gowtham was picked by Chennai Super Kings for a whopping ₹9.25 crore in the IPL. Even though he had to warm the bench in the first leg, he has learned a thing or two from captain Dhoni.

“Whenever I spoke to Mahi bhai, he always told me to back myself and never doubt myself. Playing for CSK has helped me to get better as a cricketer,” said Gowtham.

READ | Shikhar Dhawan: Humbled to lead my country on Sri Lanka tour

While this is the first time, he has been named in the squad, Gowtham had a hang of things when he was among the net bowlers with the Indian team during the home series against England earlier this year.

“Every cricketer wants to play for his country and this is a dream come true for me. I am not looking at any personal milestones or targets, my only aim is to contribute to the team’s success whenever I get a chance,” he added.

Gowtham has been training hard, advised by the National Cricket Academy trainers. “They are also keeping a track of what I am doing and what are the numbers I am putting on the training book, that way, it is also easy for them to control load management. I am just following the routine and the protocols,” he said.

The flamboyant Rana

Rana has been a terrific striker of the ball in the IPL for Kolkata Knight Riders over the past few years. The left-hander from Delhi believes in scoring runs though there were concerns about his consistency.

The 27-year-old averages above 40 in List A cricket and has a strike rate of 136.66 in T20.

Before the second wave of COVID-19 paused the IPL, Rana had smashed two destructive fifties against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians respectively. Overall, he has 21 T20 fifties.

File photo of Maharashtra batsman Ruturaj Gaikwad.   -  M.A. Sriram


Gaikwad keen on meeting Dravid again

Gowtham’s CSK team-mate Ruturaj Gaikwad is also looking forward to his maiden tour with the Indian team. “It is a very proud moment for me, but it is just the start of the journey and there is a lot more to come,” the Maharashtra batsman said.

READ: Shikhar Dhawan to lead the side, maiden call-up for Sakariya, Padikkal, Rana

Having played at the U-19 and India A levels, Ruturaj is excited to work with Rahul Dravid again. The current head of the National Cricket Academy will be travelling as head coach of the side. “Rahul sir being there makes it easy and more relaxed. I have known him since my U-19 days and have worked with him in the India A team as well. He knows my game inside out, and even I know him and what to expect. It is a known atmosphere and I am glad to be working under Rahul sir again,” said Gaikwad.

He couldn't train due to the rains in Maharashtra but there will be plenty of sessions in the days to come. “There is not much preparation, but I am trying to do a bit of practice, and keep myself ready,” he said.

The 24-year-old has maintained an average of over 47 in the 59 List A matches that he has played and has a strike rate of more than 130 in the T20 format.

READ: Rahul Dravid to be head coach for India's tour of Sri Lanka

The Padikkal charm

Royal Challengers Bangalore’s rising star Padikkal had set the stage even before IPL started. He turned heads by hitting four consecutive hundreds in the Vijay Hazare Trophy for Karnataka.

He scored 473 runs in his debut IPL season last year and followed that up by scoring the fastest century for an uncapped player with an unbeaten 101 off 52 balls against Rajasthan Royals in 2021.

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