Dravid: Fielding two senior squads simultaneously in bilateral series a short-term solution

Rahul Dravid feels the white-ball series will allow uncapped youngsters to stake their claim on berths in the T20 World Cup squad later this year.

Rahul Dravid is the India head coach for the limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Rahul Dravid, who will be the India head coach for the limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka in July, feels the white-ball series (three One-Day Internationals and three Twenty20 Internationals, or T20Is) will allow uncapped youngsters to stake their claim on berths in the T20 World Cup squad later this year.

Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Nitish Rana, K. Gowtham and Chetan Sakariya have received maiden call-ups to the national team. With the T20 World Cup likely to begin on October 17 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the planning for the big-ticket event has begun. “There are players in this squad who will be looking to cement their places in the Indian team for the upcoming T20 World Cup. But the key goal is to try and win this series,” Dravid said on Sunday.

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“Hopefully, people will get the opportunity to put in some really good performances in the process and give themselves the best chance of knocking on the selectors’ doors.”

The three T20Is against Sri Lanka are the only matches in the shortest format that India will play in the build-up to the World Cup.

While Padikkal and Gaikwad have had successful stints as openers in the last two seasons of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Sakariya impressed during his time in the 2021 season, which was called off midway because of the pandemic. While Dravid reiterated that weight may be given to performances in Sri Lanka when it comes to the final selection of the T20 World Cup squad, he cautioned against “reading too much into it.”

“I am sure the selectors and the management would have a fair idea by now about the kind of squad they’re looking for... There’s also the [second half] of the IPL before the World T20. It gives a few people an opportunity for one or two spots that the selectors might want to fill.

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“It [The Sri Lanka tour] is crucial for youngsters like Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad. They would be extremely keen to do well and set a marker for the selectors. Whether they get picked for the World Cup or not, that’s a call that the selectors and the Indian team management would take based on their plans and strategies. That said, it’s not like if you don’t have a good tour of Sri Lanka, you are never going to make it. Conversely, just because you do well against Sri Lanka doesn’t mean you will make it automatically. Certainly, good performances on tours like these against international oppositions make the selectors think about you.”

Asked if he had a chance to interact with the coaching staff and captain Virat Kohli in England, Dravid said: “I’ve had a bit of contact with the management [in England] but didn’t disturb them during the World Test Championship final. I will probably touch base with them over the next couple of weeks to see what they are thinking about the T20 World Cup and whether we can implement that in these three games. There are a couple of selectors who are going to be travelling with us. Once we get to Sri Lanka, we will interact with them and see what their ideas are.”

This is India’s first tour in Sri Lanka since it won the Nidahas Trophy title in 2018. The Shikhar Dhawan-led India will field a new-look team in the absence of several first-choice players, who are currently in England getting ready for a five-Test series against the host. Despite the quarantine rules and mandatory COVID-19 tests, Dravid feels fielding two senior Indian men’s teams simultaneously in bilateral series could be a short-term solution at best.

“It is a unique situation in terms of quarantine and all the restrictions that are in place. It’s very hard to predict what is going to happen every month... Quarantine rules being as strict as they are at this point in time...travelling between countries too is very restricted… So, in the short term, to complete the tours, maybe something like this [two teams playing simultaneously] might have to be followed. India probably had no option this time but to do this,” he said.

“Whether it is a long-term solution, I am not really sure... It is going to involve other countries, their respective cricket boards, sponsors, organisers, TV, media rights... There is so much that goes into all this, but yeah, on a short-term basis, with the kind of pressure there is on these players in terms of quarantines and rules, this option could ease the pressure on the main squad because it’s getting difficult for the same set of players to be going through the kind of restrictions that we are in now to play all forms of the game.”

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