In the era when Aussies were top dogs of international cricket their fans had a catchy jingle: Ashes to ashes, dust to dust; if Thommo don't get you, Lillee must!
Currently, under Virat Kohli, that jingle would probably go this way: ...If Bumrah don't get you, then Shami or Ishant or Umesh or Bhuvi or Hardik or Chahar...must!
This unimaginable wide pool of fast bowlers is veritably an embarrassment of choice besides being a glowing tribute to a succession of Indian selectors, coaches and skippers that banked on a highly productive process.
It has ensured that any two or three pace bowlers could be replaced or rested with minimal or nil loss in the team's effectiveness.
The same impact could be seen in the spin bowling department where the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and more recently Shahbaz Nadeem and Krunal Pandya are stepping up to be counted whenever called upon to deliver.
This state of affairs is a far cry from the days when Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh were flogged for years together in all sorts of conditions till their diminishing utility to the cause became glaring.
It is in this regard that the process started during the Greg Chappell coaching era when a number of pacemen (Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan, VRV Singh, RP Singh, Irfan Pathan, Sreeshant, Ajit Agarkar, Ashish Nehra) were pushed to the forefront and rotated despite a few players' dissatisfaction came to be seen as the way forward for Indian cricket. It soon gained wide acceptance.
The tremendous positives of an expanded pool of bowlers are so evident now that it is incomprehensible that it was not tried earlier.
In the same vein there is now a serious attempt to put together a pool of all rounders who could double up as effective medium pacers. Hardik Pandya, Vijay Shankar and newcomer Shivam Dube are part of that experiment which might work out to be a shot in the arm for the continuing success of the team.
Having said that, it is time, a similar process was extended to widen wicket-keeping and batting options also, particularly in white-ball cricket.
It goes without saying that the best opportunity to effect these would be at home, this December, when West Indies tour India to play a three-match series of T20I and ODI cricket.
Obviously with the World T20 Championship slated to be held in Australia in 11 months time and the ODI league set to take off with the Sri Lanka series in June 2020, the ideal time to test the mettle of aspiring batsmen would be the forthcoming series at home.
Certainly West Indies are not a pushover in white-ball cricket and whoever is in their team would be seriously attempting to catch the eye of IPL talent scouts. The IPL auction is likely to take place on 19 December by which time the T20I series would be over and two of the three ODIs would have been completed. Thus any good performance by an Indian youngster against a heavily motivated West Indian team would go a long way in boosting his standing.
Of course putting together a pool of batsmen and wicket-keepers is an on-going process. But the opportunity to give emerging batsmen and wicket-keepers a taste of top level international cricket is certainly now, against a charged-up West Indies team.
This is not to suggest that India should make wholesale changes in the team. Rather, it needs to create alternate choices for every position in case the number one option is taken away from the game owing to injury or any other reason.
The selectors have already set the ball rolling with the inclusion of Shreyas Iyer in the middle order. He played one good knock against Bangladesh to show that he has it in him to excel at this level.
The selectors though have to try out fresh openers too. Rohit Sharma and Sikhar Dhawan have done an outstanding job and would be first choice openers for the World T20. But Mayank Agarwal who is in red hot form too needs to be given an opportunity to showcase his credentials in white-ball cricket.
Another who needs to be given a leg up as soon as possible is the tall, 19-year-old left-hand opening batsman from Karnataka, Devdutt Padikkal. He made a hundred for India Under-19 in the Asia Cup last season but got his chances for Karnataka only after Agarwal and KL Rahul were called away on national duty.
And how splendidly has he grabbed the opportunities! He top scored in the Vijay Hazare tournament with 609 runs. It included 2 centuries and five fifties and prompted the title-winning team's captain Manish Pandey to sing praises of the youngster. He already has an unbeaten 122 and two knocks of above 50 in the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament and is certainly one to watch out for.
Then there is Shubman Gill, the talented Punjab right hand opening batsman. He had even skipper Kohli in raptures over his talent. Gill has played two ODIs for India, both against New Zealand in their country. He deserves more opportunities to genuinely believe that he belongs in this league.
Obviously, India must send their best team to the World T20 event in October next year. But they must also have ready options at hand as substitutes for the main stars.
The bowling pool has ensured that the bowling department is well covered. It is now time to get the batting and wicket-keeping departments too similarly fortified.
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