Virat Kohli, who led India to the semi-finals in the recently-concluded World Cup 2019, is expected to be present along with the five selectors when they pick India's squad for the upcoming West Indies tour, starting August 3. On Saturday, former India captain MS Dhoni made himself "unavailable" for the month-long tour but ruled out immediate retirement a day before the selectors meet in Mumbai. While Virat Kohli has decided to now make himself available for the limited-overs series of the tour, there will still be quite a few fresh faces, especially after a gruelling season that saw the Indian players first play the Indian Premier League and then the World Cup.
India will first play the limited-overs series - three T20Is and three ODIs between August 3 and August 14 -- before starting their campaign in the Test championship with two Tests in Antigua and Jamaica.
The selectors are expecting a few fitness reports, but it will be unlikely that either Shikhar Dhawan or all-rounder Vijay Shankar will be a part of the touring party. The pace battery of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are also likely to be given a break and that would then see youngsters like Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar and Khaleel Ahmed being given a go.
In the batting too, the likes of Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill and Manish Pandey could be given a go-ahead. In fact, it could be a case of the Indian selectors finally giving Shreyas Iyer a chance at the number four spot. At present, Gill and Iyer are the two players who definitely have the arsenal to stand tall and hold fort at that position. While Gill has scores of 62 and 77 in his last two games for India 'A' against West Indies 'A', Iyer has a 77 (first game) and 47 (third game).
In the spin bowling department too, some changes can be expected if the selectors do decide to give young turks like Rahul Chahar or Shreyas Gopal a chance. While Kuldeep Yadav is most likely to miss the flight after a dismal show in the World Cup, Yuzvendra Chahal too could be rested since he has been playing non-stop.
Rahul impressed in the IPL and picked up 13 wickets in 13 games and was a key figure in Mumbai's triumph. Gopal also had a brilliant IPL for Rajasthan Royals. Apart from bagging 20 wickets from 14 matches, Gopal achieved the rare feat of dismissing both Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in the same innings, not once but twice.
While Dhoni's position is clear for the next two months, the selectors must look at the job at hand and that is to lay the foundation stones with an eye on the 2023 World Cup and that means giving youngsters like Rishabh Pant a go. While there are a few other options as well with the likes of Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson showing their brilliance on and off on the domestic scene, for the moment it has to be Pant who deserves a go as he has shown sparks which even skipper Kohli has taken note of.
As for the selectors, there can't be a better opportunity than the series against West Indies to give the youngsters a chance to cement their positions in the side, keeping the 2023 World Cup in mind.
(With IANS inputs)