Making the Indian team through the IPL

Clearly it’s been a season for newcomers and India’s selection policy for the Twenty20 internationals, starting with the three-match series against Australia, has placed the IPL in proper perspective.

India captain M.S. Dhoni (left) will be without Virat Kohli for the T20 series against Sri Lanka.   -  Filephoto V. GANESAN

The ICC World Twenty20 is round the corner and the home team under the stewardship of Mahendra Singh Dhoni will prime itself for the big campaign with a preparatory three-match series against Sri Lanka that is here without Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga and a few more stalwarts.

There is of course the small matter of the Asia Cup Twenty20 next month in Bangladesh, but with the teams for all three competitions being selected in advance, the opening match against the Dinesh Chandimal-led Sri Lankan side here on Tuesday will give an idea of the combination Dhoni will put down on the team sheet in the absence of top drawer Twenty20 batsman Virat Kohli.

The Negi factor

The last few days have belonged to a left-arm spinner named Pawan Negi though, and it would be interesting to see if the captain would spring a ‘Negi’ surprise at the first available opportunity. The 23-year-old, who was bought by Delhi Daredevils for Rs. 8.5 crore at the IPL-9 auction on Saturday, has played two matches at the Gahunje village venue here; and his spells for the Delhi Daredevils almost four years ago were 4-0-21-0 against the Pune Warriors and 4-0-18-1 against Kolkata Knight Riders. Negi will compete with another highly talented and experienced left-hand spinner-batsman Ravindra Jadeja for a place in the team.

Clearly it’s been a season for newcomers and India’s selection policy for the Twenty20 internationals, starting with the three-match series against Australia, has placed the IPL in proper perspective. Eight years ago, Australian Shane Watson, came out with flying colours, won the most valuable player award and found his way back into mainstream Australian cricket.

Even in the Indian context, there were a handful who made their name in the IPL. Ravindra Jadeja, likened by the Rajasthan Royals captain Shane Warne to a `rockstar’ and Manish Pandey, who scored a blazing century at the Centurion Park in the second season of the IPL are just two prime examples.

Launching pad

But the arrival of Gujarat medium-pacer Jasprit Bumrah, Baroda all-rounder Hardik Pandya and Negi into the Indian team has given a further boost to the high-profile Twenty20 league that almost every budding Indian cricketer looks upon as a launching board into the high-end world of international cricket.

Spotted by Mumbai Indians coach John Wright three years ago, Bumrah came through the wringer of India’s domestic competitions and the initial impact he made in Australia only indicates the ambitions of the young medium pacer. Pandya did not get to bat in the three games in Australia, but perhaps he has not disappointed the selectors and the team management with the little he did with the ball, and in the outfield in some of the biggest grounds in the world.

No one has explained the reason why the Delhi southpaw is in the Indian Twenty20 team for the three-match series against Sri Lanka and for the Asia Cup Twenty20 and the ICC World Twenty20. He’s played a mere three first class matches for Delhi, but has held his place in the State’s limited over matches (19 matches) and Twenty20 team (29 matches). He’s played in 27 IPL matches - 13 for the Daredevils and 14 for Chennai Super Kings. He’s scored 168 at 12.92 and taken 21 wickets at 28.90.

Familiar names in the Sri Lankan team are Chandimal, Dilhara Fernando, Chamara Kapugedera, Thisara Perera and Sachithra Senanayake. Sri Lanka has played 73 Twenty20 matches, won 44 and lost 28, but since January 2015, it has won one match in six. So the odds appear to be stacked against it in the three-match skirmish.

Squads

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Pawan Negi, Jasprit Bumrah, Manish Pandey, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuvraj Singh and Hardik Pandya.

Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (Captain), Dushmantha Chameera, Niroshan Dickwella, Binura Fernando, Dilhara Fernando, Asela Gunaratne, Dabushka Gunathilaka, Chamara Kapugedera, Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Kasun Rajitha, Dasun Shanka, Sachithra Senanayake, Milinda Siriwardana and Jeffrey Vandersay.

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