ANI Photo | What Pujara, Shami, Bumrah’s absence in WI tour mean for emerging Indian cricketers

India’s announcement of squads for the Test and ODI series on Friday for their tour of the West Indies has certainly raised a few eyebrows and questions.
Cheteshwar Pujara, who managed to take Virat Kohli’s number 3 spot in India’s Test squad for almost a decade, was ignored for the red-ball leg of the Caribbean tour and, may have made his final appearance for India in the World Test Championship final against Australia.
With the beginning of the new WTC cycle, India need to replace those ageing stalwarts and bring the new faces in the hope of making their third straight final and, possibly, going one better.
For many, Pujara’s absence does not come as a huge shock as he failed to carry his county form into red-ball fixtures for India. However, there’s little clarity on who can rightfully take his place in the Test squad.
With Puajara gone, the return of Kohli to his preferred No.3 position would appear to be the logical call. However, with the stalwart now settled at No.4, no one knows who will fill the void.
A possible candidate could be Ruturaj Gaikwad, who is capable of playing well as an opener as well as a middle-order batter.
Along with him, young left-handed batter Yashasvi Jaiswal has finally made his way to the Indian squad. He stole the limelight with his quicker fire knocks for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023 series.
In 14 matches, Jaiswal scored 625 runs with an average of 48.08 and a strike rate of 163.61. While Gaikwad on the other end scored 590 runs in 16 matches with an average of 42.14 and a strike rate of 147.50.
While these two batters could fight for the one remaining spot, a third alternative emerges in Hardik Pandya.
He has been absent from the Test team since England. His recurring back problem has largely kept him away from the bowling aspect of the game. But after IPL 2023, he could be an ideal replacement for that vacant number four spot.
However, Rishabh Pant’s absence does not help India’s cause in this regard.
Even Axar Patel could move up the batting order. His batting style and technique has gone through a drastic change. His hardwork was clearly visible in his recent knocks in the IPL.
In the bowling department, Mukesh Kumar, who has impressed on A tours and in domestic cricket, has been included in the squad. This may appear to be a surprise selection, with the likes of Avesh Khan and Tushar Deshpande ready for International exposure have been ignored.
The 29-year-old pacer now has the opportunity to make a debut for the Indian team. The pacer will have an opportunity to make his mark in the Test format after enjoying an average IPL 2023 season.
Along with him, Navdeep Saini has also been included in the squad, with Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav missing out.
Experienced players who managed to hold on to their place include Ajinkya Rahane who has been named as the vice-captain of the squad with Rohit Sharma continuing to lead.
In the ODI series, the Indian squad also features a lot of the regulars, with Gaikwad finding himself as a part of the white ball setup as well.
Rajasthan Royals skipper Sanju Samson has finally got his recall in the IndianODI team, with KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant out with injuries. His biggest backdrop has been his inability to find consistency.
Jasprit Bumrah, KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer are all still recovering from surgery for various injuries, and with Rishabh Pant undergoing rehab after surviving a car crash last December, KS Bharat and Ishan Kishan have been picked as India’s wicketkeepers in the Caribbean.
In the absence of Bumrah and Shami, Shardul Thakur has the perfect opportunity to take up one of the vacant spaces before the World Cup 2023. India needs a bowler who can come in and bat.
Even though he struggles with maintaining his economy rate in T20I, he flourishes in the ODI format as he has bagged 50 wockets in 35 matches with an economy of 6.22.
The same situation applies for Siraj. Heh as a different charm with the red ball, but with the white ball he is yet to showcase his true skills. This series could take both bowlers a step closer to the World Cup squad.
India’s Test squad: Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Yashasvi Jaiswal, KS Bharat (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat, Ishan Kishan (wk), Navdeep Saini
India’s ODI squad: Rohit Sharma (Captain), Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Virat Kohli, Surya Kumar Yadav, Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper), Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Shardul Thakur, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat, Mohd. Siraj, Umran Malik, Mukesh Kumar. (ANI)

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