A week after the Champions Trophy, on India’s limited-overs tour to the West Indies, there have been encouraging signs by way of team selection. Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah have been rested, but it’s the selection of Rishabh Pant and Kuldeep Yadav that will sit well with the concept of “transition”. Earlier, Rahul Dravid declared that India must look at the roles of MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh (they will be 37 in the 2019 World Cup). The selectors must start a plan immediately of phasing out seniors in order to pick young cricketers. They should be ready by the time the World Cup occurs in England two years later.
Here are five young cricketers they need to invest in:
The 19-year-old left-hand hitter is being viewed in circles as senior cricket’s next big thing after this year’s IPL tournament. He played some stunning innings for Delhi Daredevils, but it didn’t come as a surprise to his long-time coaches and colleagues. Pant is a wicketkeeper, too, which means that he is a direct successor to MS Dhoni. At the T20 against England in Bangalore this year, Pant even joined Dhoni for the last over in the middle. He played just three balls, but it was a view of the future, even for Dhoni, who was prodding through that innings. Pant has played just one T20 match for India, but could well play all five ODIs against West Indies. India desperately needs a hitter in the middle order, and Pant at 4 would be perfect in the long run.
The Sehwag-like Mumbai opener showed excellent form in IPL 2016 for Delhi Daredevils, before having a stop-start time next season. But he has carved out a reputation for himself in Ranji cricket (average 55), scoring runs for Mumbai by the bucket load. The 22-year-old is yet to make his international debut, and might have to wait a little longer, given that Indian openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were the best batsmen of the recent Champions Trophy. The problem with Dhawan is his consistency away from ICC tournaments. Even the slightest dip in form could mean that Iyer will be brought into the fold of things for the next World Cup.
The 17-year-old Mumbai prodigy recently made his debut in Ranji cricket, playing the semifinal and (losing) final of the 2016 season. He has been in the spotlight since he hit 546 in a Harris Shield match in 2013. It was a world record, till Pranav Dhanawade broke it three years later. Even the documentary ‘Beyond All Boundaries’ focused on Shaw’s life and equation with his father, with footage that showcased his batting talent. Many seasoned Ranji cricketers declared that he could be better than Sachin Tendulkar. Last week, he was picked as the ODI captain of the Indian U19 tour to England in July. He is set to make a mark overseas now, which could catapult him to the top of selectors’ list for India’s less glamorous tours to Zimbabwe or West Indies next year. It’s too early, but by 2019, Shaw could just be a choice at the top of the order. Two years is a long time.
Again, another U19 talent who got noticed through the IPL. In this year’s season, this handy left-hand batsman was selected to replace Ravichandran Ashwin by the Rising Pune Supergiant team. They reached the final, and Sundar was at the forefront, with his economical off-spin bowling rarely yielding more than 6 an over. Both Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are waning forces in the ODI circuit. Sundar might as well be invested in at some point, given the lack of spinning options on the domestic circuit. Kuldeep Yadav is at the forefront on the bench right now, but Yadav doesn’t have age on his side as compared to Sundar – who spent most of his time bowling in the risky power play overs for Pune in April. He could be the new Karnataka “thinker” in India’s next-generation team.
Umar Nazir Mir
The 23-year-old bowler has become popular for being one of the rare Indian fast bowlers who can consistently clock 150 kmph in domestic T20 cricket. He wasn’t selected at the IPL auction, but has already made the North Zone squad. He could be a better successor to the height/bounce of Ishant Sharma in the future. He is of prime age and fitness right now, with him having lost 15 kilos in the last year alone. He doesn’t have much experience in longer formats, but if handled and nurtured correctly, could be used as a weapon for short fiery bursts. This will give us an advantage over unsuspecting oppositions that get used to the gentle pace and swing of Bhuvneshwar Kumar.