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Feature

Six players who could debut for India in the next WTC cycle

India's Test selectors are likely to keep a close eye on these five promising batters and one tireless quick

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
23-Jun-2023
Sarfaraz Khan gestures after his hundred, Delhi vs Mumbai, Delhi, 1st day, Ranji Trophy 2022-23, January 17, 2023

Sarfaraz Khan's first-class average is second only to that of Don Bradman  •  PTI

With India set to begin their new World Test Championship (WTC) cycle with the two-Test tour of the West Indies in July, here's a look at six players who could come into the mix over the next two years.

Sarfaraz Khan


Sarfaraz has had to fight with perceptions that he isn't "cricket fit", but when you churn out the kind of runs he has, season after season for three years now, there can't be much weightage to that argument. As things stand, his first-class average is second only to Don Bradman, among batters who've played at least 50 innings; he averages 79.65, with 13 hundreds and nine half-centuries.
For all his proficiency, however, Sarfaraz hasn't had the best of numbers for India A. There are also some technical flaws that coaches have been working on - especially his game against the short ball. Where he scores points, though, is in his consistency, and his ability to dig in and put a price on his wicket even if he has to look ugly. At 25, he still has plenty of time to take the next step up.

Yashasvi Jaiswal


How can you ignore someone with a first-class average of 80.21 across 26 innings? Jaiswal has taken the domestic circuit by storm for his ability to attack bowlers while also having a solid technique. It isn't quite Bazball but Jaiswal in full flow has the ability to dominate bowling attacks, glimpses of which he has shown in the IPL, in the company of Jos Buttler at the top of the order for Rajasthan Royals.
Jaiswal's most recent first-class knocks came in the Irani Cup, where he made 213 and 144 for Rest of India against Madhya Pradesh. That aggregate of 357 in the match was the most for any batter in an Irani game. Jaiswal has the ability to not just open but also bat at No. 3 if required.

Ruturaj Gaikwad


Much of his recent success has been in white-ball cricket, but Gaikwad's solidity, and his penchant to play late have led many to compare his talent with that of a young Rohit Sharma when he broke through in 2005-06. Gaikwad's red-ball numbers aren't hugely impressive just yet, as an average of 42.19 after 28 first-class games would suggest, but they are improving; 2022-23 was the first time he averaged above 50 in a Ranji Trophy season. Since 2021, meanwhile, he has shown in the IPL that he can mix it against top-quality attacks.
Stephen Fleming, his coach at Chennai Super Kings, was drawn in by how quickly Gaikwad picked length, his understanding of his limitations, and his ability to not let that affect his thought process.

Tilak Varma


"Typical Hyderabadi flair." That was Rohit Sharma describing one of many knocks Varma played during the IPL for Mumbai Indians. He missed the 2022-23 Ranji season due to injury, but his temperament and technique have come in for plaudits from several experts, including Sachin Tendulkar.
He doesn't have a lot of experience in first-class cricket yet, but there have been flashes of brilliance, like for India A against New Zealand A at home last year where he brought up his only first-class hundred so far. At his best, Varma can make batting look easy. There will be sterner tests, but the signs are promising.

Abhimanyu Easwaran


Perhaps the oldest in this current batting group at 28, Easwaran has been a proven performer for India A for a while now. He has based his game around a sound technique that has brought him success in challenging conditions. Having made his first-class debut in December 2013, he has risen to be among India's next-in-line as far as red-ball openers go over the last three years. Easwaran's overall first-class numbers are formidable: 6556 runs in 150 innings at an average of 47.85, with a best of 233.
And like Jaiswal, he can also tailor his game to bat at No. 3, a role he has played on an off for India A. Unlike the others in this list, Easwaran doesn't have an IPL contract, but he has been cutting his teeth on tough surfaces in the Dhaka Premier League, Bangladesh's primary List-A competition, for the past four years, apart from stints in club cricket in England when not playing domestic cricket.

Mukesh Kumar


Having modelled himself on Josh Hazlewood, Bengal's Mukesh Kumar has gained a reputation for being a tireless workhorse whose robotic consistency and minute deviations off the pitch have troubled the best of batters in domestic cricket. Having been an India A regular for two seasons now, elevation to the Test squad only seems natural.
Mukesh's body of work in first-class cricket is stellar. He has 149 wickets in 39 games at an average of 21.55, and has been part of a three-pronged pace attack, alongside Ishan Porel and Akash Deep, that has hauled Bengal to two Ranji Trophy finals, in 2019-20 and 2022-23. His India A record is just as impressive, with his 18 wickets coming at 17.50 and including five-fors against New Zealand A and Bangladesh A.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo