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The Chahars, Pandyas and others who could make the cut for Sri Lanka tour

Shaw vs Padikkal, the Chakravarthy debate and more

Nagraj Gollapudi
The Pandya brothers could lend all-round depth  •  BCCI

The Pandya brothers could lend all-round depth  •  BCCI

When the Covid-19 pandemic first broke out in March 2020, ESPNcricinfo conducted an exercise to account for a situation where a country could field two teams simultaneously to fulfil the obligations as part of the ICC's FTP, which has been severely affected.
Such an imagined scenario is likely to become a reality this July when a B-string Indian contingent will feature in the white-ball series in Sri Lanka when at the same time Indian's main team, led by Virat Kohli, will be preparing for a five-Test series in England.
The Sri Lanka tour will comprise three ODIs followed by three T20s. What could these B-string Indian squads look like? ESPNcricinfo looks at the various options.
Top order 
Barring Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw, all these top-order batters can fit into the middle order too, but the opening slot is where the selectors will have a variety of options to pick from.
Without Kohli and Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan will be the pivot in the batting. Apart from excelling at ICC events, Dhawan's openness to adapt has made him one of the best batters for Delhi Capitals for the last three seasons.
Shaw and uncapped Devdutt Padikkal could be in the running to partner Dhawan. Shaw fell off the rails at IPL 2020, but has realigned his priorities since. Before IPL 2021, he returned with record-breaking numbers in the the Vijay Hazare Trophy (domestic 50-over tournament). Then he carried forward that form into the IPL, where at the halfway stage he had the fourth-highest runs, the best strike rate in the tournament (minimum 100 balls) and also became the second batsman to hit six fours in an over in the tournament's history.
Meanwhile, Padikkal is a good left-field option and has attracted admiration from not just Kohli, his captain at the Royal Challengers Bangalore, but also among cricket experts with his technical fluency and aggressive stroke-play that helped him become only the fourth uncapped player to score a century this IPL.
The middle order should not be an issue with Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson along with Manish Pandey likely to feature in both squads. Samson and Kishan will also be the two wicket-keeping options.
Can Hardik Pandya bowl a longer spell in more than one match? Is the uncapped legspinning allrounder Rahul Tewatia good enough for the biggest stage? Should Shivam Dube and Vijay Shankar get another audition? The selectors are likely to deliberate such questions.
At the moment Hardik is one of the two allrounders along with Ravindra Jadeja who is assured a spot in India's T20 World Cup squad. However the Sri Lanka series could throw up another viable option which could then have an impact on the balance of that World Cup squad.
Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav's dip in form in the last two years has made India vulnerable in the spin department, something that became evident at the 2019 World Cup. While Kuldeep has barely played, both for India and the Kolkata Knight Riders, Chahal has become predictable and inconsistent. The selectors could be then tempted to look at the pair of Rahul Chahar and uncapped mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy.
This IPL, Chahar showed he could handle pressure and was part of the India's reserve bowling set for the England Test series at home recently. Chakravarthy could get a third chance after failing on the fitness front the last two times he was named in the Indian T20 squads - for the Australia tour and then recently at home against England.
Along with Krunal Pandya, he is the second option as a finger spinner though his fitness issues including a weak shoulder means the latter is only good for T20 cricket.
Fast bowlers 
Unless he has a niggle, Bhuvneshwar Kumar should spearhead the bowling group. Equally confident will be the pair of Deepak Chahar and Navdeep Saini. While Mohammad Siraj has kept Saini out of contention at the Royal Challengers, Saini has the pace and the skillsets to hold his own, especially in ODIs.
Chahar can handle the responsibility ably especially in the Powerplay segment in T20s. In the absence of T Natarajan, who is on the mend after undergoing a knee surgery recently, the selectors could think about the left-arm pairing of Jaydev Unadkat and Khaleel Ahmed.
If Unadkat is picked, it would've been some reward for his record-breaking 2019-20 Ranji Trophy season - he picked up 67 wickets - that culminated in Saurashtra's historic win.
There are two wild cards, too, in the uncapped pair of Harshal Patel and Chetan Sakariya who were among the best bowlers at the halfway stage this IPL.
(Shreyas Iyer and T Natarajan have not been mentioned as options because they are recovering from shoulder and knee surgery respectively. The options also don't include the fast bowling pair of Avesh Khan and Prasidh Krishna, who are part of the stand-bys for the England tour).

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo