S. SOORAJ | 1st July 2021

Ever since the announcement that India is going to send two different squads, one to play tests at England and the other to play ODIs and T20s at Sri Lanka, Indian fans have been thrilled to see two different sets of sides representing their nation. While the limited-overs squad is merely a secondary side that is fronted mostly by backup players and fresh faces, the amount of talent in the side is still immense.

And the news that the absolute legend that is Rahul Dravid is going to coach the second squad was the icing on the cake for the fans.

After his retirement, the former Indian captain donned the role of the coach for India U-19 and India A teams for a while and it’s safe to say he did a brilliant job.

After all, masterminding India’s U-19 team into the U-19 World Cup finals twice and winning the trophy once isn’t a piece of cake.

Aside from just silverware, Rahul Dravid has been hailed for nurturing the talents of the likes of Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, and Washington Sundar. So, when the BCCI announced that Jammy will travel as a coach with the Indian team that is facing Sri Lanka, the chatter hasn’t stopped ever since.

And it won’t stop anytime soon as here are the 5 things we think Rahul Dravid should do in India’s tour of Sri Lanka.

Nurturing the gamechangers that could make India’s T20 squad flawless

Dravid could get the best out of Shaw, considering the pair worked in close quarters during India’s 2018 U-19 World Cup Win

After winning the inaugural T20 Championship in 2007, India has never managed to win the coveted trophy again. Adding to that, the Men in Blue have been in a severe trophy drought since the 2013 Champions Trophy triumph, tasting defeat in 6 ICC tournaments in a row.

Adding to the recent World Test Championship final disappointment, a T20 World Cup defeat wouldn’t do much to make things up. So, India needs to tick all the boxes to make sure a trophy is finally coming home again.

Given that the 3 contests against Sri Lanka are the only T20Is the Indian team is playing before the T20 WC, this and the remainder of the IPL is the final chance for the management to find the missing pieces. Even though India has a stacked T20 squad currently, there are a few shortcomings in the side that have made it impossible for the management to find the best XI for the T20 World Cup.

Dravid has already mentioned that his primary goal is to find a couple of new players that can make the T20 World Cup squad. With his penchant for spotting gems, a few more additions could really turn India into an unstoppable outfit.

Turning potential into pedigree

The Indian squad that is set to face Sri Lanka features a flurry of uncapped talents. Ruturaj Gaikwad, Devdutt Padikkal, Nitish Rana, Krishnappa Gowtham, Varun Chakravarthy and Chetan Sakariya are the 6 players who are going to earn their blue stripes for the first time.

Even though Dravid expressed his desire to give every player in the side at least one chance, he did reiterate that his goal is to ultimately win the series.

However, providing a platform to all these players and managing to get the best out of them has to key, considering the fruits of Dravid’s labour could bear in the long run, apart from trying to merely win the series.

The uncapped players have already exhibited their talents in their List-A and IPL games. And there is no opportunity for these young players to show what they’re made of, especially under the keen eye of Dravid.

With the likes of Manish Pandey, Sanju Samson and Kuldeep Yadav eyeing a comeback into the Indian side, Dravid’s choice of XI in each game will steal the headlines and rightfully so.

India has superstars in the making and under the tutelage of Dravid, the only way is up.

Finding a solution to India’s spin bowling crisis in white-ball cricket

Once a feared duo, the decline of Kul-Cha is undeniable

Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal seemed to be thriving within their double act, being India’s spin twins in ODIs and T20Is for the past few years. However, they are no longer the world-class spinners they used to be. ‘

‘Kul-Cha’ have been putting in lacklustre displays for more than a few months now and their decline leaves a huge gap in the Indian line-up. Spin bowling is major problem for India in the limited-overs format now for obvious reasons.

Going into the T20 World Cup, with the once deadly duo again is a case of blind trust for no rhyme or reason. The Sri Lankan tour is the best time to figure out who can fill in as that vital backup spinner in UAE and Oman in 3 months’ time.

The Indian squad that tours Sri Lanka features two main spinners- Varun Chakravarthy and Rahul Chahar (along with Kuldeep and Chahal). It’s here where Dravid’s experimentation will be key to discover where the question marks over the spinners have any answers.

The added threat of losing their places in the line-up to two high-quality spinners in Varun and Chahar could also bring the best out of Kul-Cha to redeem themselves.

It could either be a win-win or a lose-lose situation. It’s over to you, Mr. Dravid.

Dealing with the Hardik Pandya conundrum

Hardik Pandya is a gem. It’s really as simple as that. He has proven to be an invaluable addition to the team with his contributions in all the departments. However, a recent injury crisis has cut short his gametime and changed his game altogether.

Pandya has been struggling to bowl complete spells for the past 2 years and if this keeps up, the Mumbai Indians man will not be able to feature in the Indian side as an all-rounder.

Even if Hardik Pandya doesn’t bowl, he can still be valuable to the team as a pinch-hitter and an exceptional fielder. But in this case, he would be a part of the side as a batsman and India must then look for a pace-bowling all-rounder among the likes of a quite mediocre group in Shardul Thakur, Vijay Shankar, and Shivam Dube.

If India’s new head honcho could figure out Hardik Pandya’s role in the playing XI, it would make a lot of things simpler for the Indian side.

While Hardik had bowled on and off spells in the Australia tour and has bowled a few complete spells in the recent ODI’s and T20Is against England, he has mentioned that he would chip in as and when the team needs him to. However, there was no clarity as to whether he would bowl in any of the games before the toss. With such uncertainty, it would be safer to go into a game with an extra all-rounder apart from Pandya.
But that would lead to India losing out the chance to field an extra batsman in the side with the likes of Shreyas Iyer around and KL Rahul speculated to bat in the middle. And we’ve touched on how the pace-bowling all-rounders don’t inspire a lot of confidence as well.

If Rahul Dravid could find the right place for Hardik Pandya in the side either as a batsman or as an all-rounder, India could move forward and see what needs to be done. Since the uncertainty has been around for over two years, a permanent solution has to be found.

More of such tours, please

Even though India’s dual squad approach is a brilliant idea, it is probably a one-time thing. However, if the Men in Blue manage to win this tour comprehensively and it paves the way for fresh faces to shine, making this temporary situation a permanent one wouldn’t be a surprise.

India has a talent pool that exceeds all of its competition and tours like these could give the backup players the window of opportunity to prove themselves and enter the fray in case of injuries, form or both to one of the guaranteed starters. This could also fully eliminate the fatigue factor. While the secondary squad plays these short ODI and T20I tours, the main Indian squad could get the much-needed break that lets them prepare for massive ICC tournaments and Test series’.

It is nothing but a boon that the BCCI decided to go with Rahul Dravid as the coach for this series. The iconic batsman has everything you need in a coach that can set the blueprint of a cricketing nation for the next decade

More of these tours could also put the limelight on Rahul Dravid, the coach and maybe one day, he gets the big job.

Now that’s a sight for sore eyes if you’re in love with the sport.

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