The absence of the trilogy of Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav and Rishabh Pant for the T20I series against Sri Lanka gives India another opportunity to solidify their backup options for the much-discussed middle class. Focus is on Shreya’s Iyer and comeback man Sanju Samson during the 3-match T20I series that begins February 24 in Lucknow.
Shreyas Iyer will likely be a guaranteed spot in the player XI throughout the series. Last week against the West Indies, Iyer warmed the benches for the first two games before moving up to the XI for the dead rubber on Sunday. The star-batter showed signs of intent from the start, hitting 25 of 16 balls before folding.
The newly appointed Captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders has established his credentials in the ODI format and with his debut hundreds in Tests he will certainly get more opportunities on white, especially with the ax from Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. However, Iyer needs to be more consistent and show the team management that he can play the role of attacker and not the role of a mid-range accumulator if he is to be part of the T20i setup.
Iyer missed last year’s T20 World Championship after a long break due to injury. After the Worlds campaign, the emergence of Suryakumar Yadav as a reliable mid-range batter and India’s need for a hard-hitting finisher who can bowl a little has benched Iyer in T20Is.
Against the West Indies, the firepower provided by Suryakumar and Venkatesh Iyer in midfield was a huge boost for India and team management would want to continue the assist ahead of the World Cup.
“Someone like Shreyas Iyer is sitting outside, it’s very hard for him not to make it to eleven but we needed someone to play in the middle so we couldn’t bring him in. It’s always nice when this kind of competition happens and a lot of the guys miss it too,” Rohit had said, giving an insight into the mindset of team management during the West Indies T20is.
Iyer has an opportunity to at least cement his spot as a first-choice backup option for a mid-tier role. Iyer had 8 games in 2021 with a batting average of 136.03, but the star-batter will need to step up his game if he wants to play 5th and 6th on a regular basis.
POSSIBLE LIFELINE FOR SANJU SAMSON
Meanwhile, Sanju Samson returns to the T20I side for the first time since July 2021 and with captain Rohit Sharma claiming the Kerala batsman is part of World Cup plans, it’s another lifeline for him. Samson, who debuted back in 2015, has only played 10 games and already made a few comebacks.
Samson is a proven performer in the Indian Premier League. 2,286 runs in 121 games with a healthy batting average but the star batsman failed to translate that into international cricket.
Rohit stressed while addressing Samson’s return that India offers Samson the opportunity to realize his talent and why a batsman like him would bring India’s firepower to their World Cup campaign in Australia later this year.
“His backfoot game is excellent. Some of the shots you may have seen in the IPL, the pick-up pull, the cut shots, the bowler standing and passing. This type of shots is not easy to play. And I believe if you go to Australia [where the next T20 World Cup is]you need that kind of shooting ability,” Rohit said on the eve of the first T20i.
“Samson definitely has it all. I wish him all the best and I hope he fulfills his potential to the maximum.”
11 caps over 6 years and a high score of 46 does not inspire confidence, but management know Samson can be the X-factor in midfield when he gets going. Some of those IPL strikes for Rajasthan Royals are a testament to Samson’s approach and India will be well served if he can achieve a consistent patch at the highest level.