Punjab fast bowler Siddarth Kaul’s selection for the ODIs against Sri Lanka is indicative of the selectors desire to widen the pool of fast bowlers. It could also mean that they are not confident of the present set of fast bowlers lasting the stretch through South Africa and beyond and hence are looking for bowlers who could scale up rapidly.
Kaul is, therefore, an interesting choice. Usually an understudy would be someone pretty young, so that he could learn the ropes from seasoned senior professionals. Kaul, on the other hand, is not young for an emerging fast bowler. But the medium pacer, who had played under Virat Kohli when India won the U-19 World Cup back in 2008, is rich in experience and a possible short-term alternative, if required.
The 27-year-old Punjab medium-pacer has played 50 first class matches in his 10-year career and hence is not a green horn. He played for India A recently against New Zealand A and before that in South Africa. In both outings, he did reasonably well to justify his inclusion in the pool of fast bowlers.
Kaul bowls good lines and is capable of moving the ball around. Hailing from a family of cricketers, he could be expected to have good cricketing acumen and hence could be the sort of plug-and-play medium pacer who could fit in to the team’s requirements at a moment’s notice. The ODIs against the Lankans should demonstrate how well he adapts to top level international cricket.
The selectors could probably have also chosen Kerala’s Basil Thampi. He is just 24 years of age and is a pretty quick fast bowler. He proved his worth in the last Indian Premier League when his toe-crushing yorkers and slower deliveries harried even experienced batsmen like Chris Gayle, Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard.
Thampi too did reasonably well for India A and it is possible that he will get his opportunity before long. A stint as understudy to the fast bowling professionals at the right stage of his career could do wonders for the tall and lanky fast bowler.
Other than Kaul there are no other surprises in the team. The selectors have indicated that Kohli may be back for the T20Is starting 20 December so the squad selected on Monday would stand only for the three ODIs, at Dharamsala, Mohali and Vishakapatnam between 10 and 17 December.
The choice of venues would mean that swing bowlers Kaul, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah would have a huge say as winter conditions in the two north Indian venues would be conducive to their style of bowling.
Mumbai batsman Shreyas Iyer, who was part of the T20I squad that beat New Zealand recently, has been awarded a berth in the ODI squad. He did not do much in the T20 series or even in domestic matches. But the selectors have decided to back his talent and it is up to him to justify that.
They could have had a look at Karnataka’s Mayank Agarwal too. The batsman is in the form of his life, scoring five centuries, including an unbeaten triple century, over the last month. But the selectors probably did not want to get the waters muddied. They must have already zeroed in on a set group for the South African tour and can’t have Agarwal upsetting their plans!
Ajinkya Rahane, who has not been particularly productive off late, gets yet another chance to make his presence felt.
The selectors have once again ignored the ODI claims of spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. It is pretty obvious that they are pleased with the efforts of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav and have continued with them.
The decision to rest Kohli gives Rohit Sharma an opportunity to lead India. He has had a lot of experience leading Mumbai Indians. Besides, there is Mahendra Singh Dhoni around to do some hand-holding, if required.
By and large the selectors have gone with the tried and tested, with only Iyer falling in that emerging player category. Sri Lanka were not too hot in Tests but could be a different kettle of fish in the shorter format of the game. In fact, it could suit their style. Maybe at least in ODIs they could provide the stiff opposition that could come in handy as preparation for South Africa.