CHENNAI: Three ICC events in as many years. Losing key players at their peak to injuries, exciting young prospects coming out through the domestic circuit being tested successfully at the grand stage ie IPL and more importantly, workload management will see the Indian team giving opportunities to youngsters from the Australian tour.
Though the injury to Rohit Sharma and Ishant Sharma means a window presented in itself, the team management is keen on building their bench strength. During the two-week camp that happened behind close doors because of quarantine rules, it is learnt that the Indian team management has been impressed with the youngsters, who they believe should be thrown into the deep end. Historically, tours to Australia are treated as to make or break for young players. The current set up need not look beyond their captain Virat Kohli, who came of age during his maiden tour to Australia in 2011/12.
India's immediate focus is on the T20 World Cup, which they host next October. Over the last 12 months they have gone about building a different side for the format well aware that apart from Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Jasprit Bumrah, there are not many who will walk into the XI. Though the IPL has thrown up few names to be tested, the emergence of Deepak Chahar as Bhuvneshwar Kumar continues to struggle with fitness issues means India are looking to create a new pool of pacers.
Over the last five years, apart from Kumar, India have relied on Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah to handle their pace department. It reached peak levels during the previous tour to Australia, where they became the first Indian team to win a Test series Down Under and reached further high in the Caribbean where they were unplayable at times. But that seems a long time ago.
Since then Kumar and Ishant have not been in the best of shape, which means Bumrah and Shami have to shoulder the responsibility this time. The emergence of Navdeep Saini gives them an out-and-out pacer in Tests, who can be a perfect ally to the experienced duo. Throw in Mohammed Siraj, whose bowling is best suited to long format, the coaching set up believe this tour will be the right time to test these players. With T Natarajan, a left-arm pacer they have longed for, giving them a new variety, India are keen to test their mettle and groom them for the future.
“It is a no-brainer (workload management). They (Shami and Bumrah) have gone through a full IPL season and both of them have bowled beautifully and are in a good rhythm. And it is important to monitor their workloads, hence the chance of younger guys getting an opportunity comes into play. You want to see how people react in different situations as well because you come up against different challenges every time you come on an Indian tour. You need to maintain a good balance and it is something that we have done in the past. Our bowlers have been available fit for most of the important matches and it is something (workload) which is a very important factor for us going forward and for me as a captain to know as well in terms of how they are feeling,” Kohli said on the eve of the first ODI on Thursday.
Even though all things point out that Mayank Agarwal will open on Friday alongside Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill firmly remains part of their plans. The Punjab batsman didn't light up the IPL like Mayank, but the support staff and the selectors have high regard for his capability to not just play as an opener, but also in the middle-order. India are well aware that Australia will come hard at them, particularly after losing the ODI and Test series last time in 2018. But they also believe this is the time to be bold and hand opportunities to the youngsters keeping the long term future in mind.
“We have definitely discussed to give opportunities to the youngsters in the team. There are a lot of them, waiting to get into the park and play in a place like Australia. It is a great opportunity for them, to realise something about their own game and take it next level and take the team forward. It is an important series for them to grow and it is for the captain and the team management to give them the opportunity to go out there and play to the best of their abilities and freely. We are definitely looking forward to seeing them because they are a very talented bunch,” Kohli added.