It’s odd to not see the name of MS Dhoni in any Indian tour squad. But that’s where Indian cricket is now, a post-Dhoni era in tests, in which you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone on the squad with the experience of more than 40 test matches. These aren’t the Indian teams fans have been used to, but perhaps by the time they do come around to accepting this change, many—including new captain Virat Kohli—will be cauldrons of experience.
India is touring Sri Lanka in August. Before you roll your eyes at the mere mention of the most overwrought contest in cricket, it is interesting to note that Sri Lanka are a team in transition too. Over the three test matches, we will watch two young teams come to terms with a fragile transitional phase. The series will perhaps be noted the most for legend Kumar Sangakkara’s retirement after the second test in Colombo. His team is fresh from losing a test and ODI series to Pakistan at home. They will not like the fact that, as an Asian team, they are perhaps not even as competitive as Bangladesh—a ‘minnow’ no more—right now. And neither is India, for that matter, after they lost the ODI series to Bangladesh.
These are two wounded teams, full of youngsters wanting to prove themselves.
The 15-man Indian squad reads as follows:
Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Varun Aaron, KL Rahul, Harbhajan Singh, Wriddhiman Saha, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra
Take a good look at that last name. Amit Mishra, all of 32, will join R Ashwin and old-timer Harbhajan Singh as the third spinner on the tour. He has replaced younger leg-spinner Karn Sharma, and is the only change from the squad that travelled to Bangladesh. Mishra last played a test for India in 2011, and will perhaps fancy his chances on the spin-friendly wickets of Galle and Colombo. He is probably the only senior Indian stalwart in the team other than Harbhajan Singh, who continues to defy odds and be given a second life in a team, with a depressing lack of options. Ishant Sharma is also the experienced fast bowler here, while Cheteshwar Pujara and KL Rahul have to fight their way back into the team after the success of Dhawan in Bangladesh.
It will be interesting to see if Kohli sticks with Rohit Sharma at 3, or resorts to the more solid and test-technique ways of Pujara or Rahul. Either way, count on all three playing over the series of three test matches, because as of now, perhaps even Kohli doesn’t know who his first ten players are.