Young blood on WI tour: What Pujara, Shami, Bumrah’s absence mean for emerging cricketers


Pujara (right) failed to carry his recent county form into red-ball fixtures for India (ANI)

Jasprit Bumrah, KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer are all still recovering from surgery for various injuries, and with Rishabh Pant undergoing rehab after surviving a car crash

Our Bureau

India’s announcement of squads for the Test and ODI series on Friday for their tour of the West Indies has certainly raised a few eyebrows and questions.

Cheteshwar Pujara, who managed to take Virat Kohli’s number 3 spot in India’s Test squad for almost a decade, was ignored for the red-ball leg of the Caribbean tour and, may have made his final appearance for India in the World Test Championship final against Australia. With the beginning of the new WTC cycle, India needs to replace those ageing stalwarts and bring the new faces in the hope of making their third straight final and, possibly, going one better.

For many, Pujara’s absence does not come as a huge shock as he failed to carry his county form into red-ball fixtures for India. However, there’s little clarity on who can rightfully take his place in the Test squad.

With Puajara gone, the return of Kohli to his preferred No.3 position would appear to be the logical call. However, with the stalwart now settled at No.4, no one knows who will fill the void.

A possible candidate could be Ruturaj Gaikwad, who is capable of playing well as an opener as well as a middle-order batter.

Along with him, young left-handed batter Yashasvi Jaiswal has finally made his way to the Indian squad. He stole the limelight with his quicker fire knocks for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023 series.

In 14 matches, Jaiswal scored 625 runs with an average of 48.08 and a strike rate of 163.61. While Gaikwad on the other end scored 590 runs in 16 matches with an average of 42.14 and a strike rate of 147.50.

While these two batters could fight for the one remaining spot, a third alternative emerges in Hardik Pandya.

He has been absent from the Test team since England. His recurring back problem has largely kept him away from the bowling aspect of the game. But after IPL 2023, he could be an ideal replacement for that vacant number four spot.

However, Rishabh Pant’s absence does not help India’s cause in this regard.

Even Axar Patel could move up the batting order. His batting style and technique has gone through a drastic change. His hardwork was clearly visible in his recent knocks in the IPL.

In the bowling department, Mukesh Kumar, who has impressed on A tours and in domestic cricket, has been included in the squad. This may appear to be a surprise selection, with the likes of Avesh Khan and Tushar Deshpande ready for international exposure have been ignored.

The 29-year-old pacer now has the opportunity to make a debut for the Indian team. The pacer will have an opportunity to make his mark in the Test format after enjoying an average IPL 2023 season.

Along with him, Navdeep Saini has also been included in the squad, with Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav missing out.

Experienced players who managed to hold on to their place include Ajinkya Rahane who has been named as the vice-captain of the squad with Rohit Sharma continuing to lead.

In the ODI series, the Indian squad also features a lot of the regulars, with Gaikwad finding himself as a part of the white ball setup as well.

Rajasthan Royals skipper Sanju Samson has finally got his recall in the Indian ODI team, with KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant out with injuries. His biggest backdrop has been his inability to find consistency.

Jasprit Bumrah, KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer are all still recovering from surgery for various injuries, and with Rishabh Pant undergoing rehab after surviving a car crash last December, KS Bharat and Ishan Kishan have been picked as India’s wicketkeepers in the Caribbean.

In the absence of Bumrah and Shami, Shardul Thakur has the perfect opportunity to take up one of the vacant spaces before the World Cup 2023. India needs a bowler who can come in and bat.

Even though he struggles with maintaining his economy rate in T20I, he flourishes in the ODI format as he has bagged 50 wickets in 35 matches with an economy of 6.22.

The same situation applies for Siraj. Heh as a different charm with the red ball, but with the white ball he is yet to showcase his true skills. This series could take both bowlers a step closer to the World Cup squad.

Rahane has spent the majority of his Test career at No. 5, but he has also played at first drop, where he hit a century in 2015 against Sri Lanka (ANI)

India’s Test squad
Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Yashasvi Jaiswal, KS Bharat (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat, Ishan Kishan (wk), Navdeep Saini

India’s ODI squad
Rohit Sharma (Captain), Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Virat Kohli, Surya Kumar Yadav, Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper), Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Shardul Thakur, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat, Mohd. Siraj, Umran Malik, Mukesh Kumar.

Who can fill in Pujara’s place?

The selectors have a crucial decision to make about who will fill the third spot. Let’s see batters who can come in at number three

Yashasvi Jaiswal
The young talent has been in phenomenal form, he was a steller in the last edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Playing for the Rajasthan Royals, Jaiswal was one of the leading run-scorer. He struck 625 runs in 14 games.

Jaiswal also has an impressive first-class record. He has scored 1,845 runs in just 15 games with an excellent average of 80.21. he has played the highest knock of 265 in domestic cricket.

Ruturaj Gaikwad

Ruturaj Gaikwad is another batter who performed well in the previous IPL season. The 26-year-old made his ODI debut last year in October but he is still waiting for his test cap. There are changes that he could play his maiden test in West Indies.

Gaikwad has excelled as an opener for Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League over the past few seasons, but the right-hander has a sound technique that could well suit batting at No. 3 as evidenced by his six centuries from 28 first-class appearances at the domestic level.

Ajinkya Rahane

One of the positives from the WTC final was Ajinkya Rahane’s form. He showed mettle against Australia when India was struggling. He scored 89 and 46 in the match respectively.

Rahane has spent the majority of his Test career at No. 5, but he has also played at first drop, where he hit a century in 2015 against Sri Lanka.

Shubman Gill

Shuman Gill was the leading run-scorer in the IPL 2023, he scored 890 runs with an average of 59.33 in 17 outings. In the WTC final, Shubman Gill was the choice for Playing XI, though he was not able to make an impact as scored 13 and 18 runs.

Virat Kohli Virat Kohli loves to bat at number three in one-day matches, it would be interesting to see him bat at the third spot in the red-ball cricket. However, it will be not favourable to move him from his regular 4th position.

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