By Khurram Habib
New Delhi, May 21 (IANS) Even though India are playing just one format during their three-and-a-half month long stay in England and travelling with 24 players unlike in Australia, where they played three formats in just over two months of stay and travelled with 32 players, they can still face problems with shortage of players.
With no warm-up matches in England against county teams, India will prepare for the five-Test series with a couple of intra-squad matches. They have a one-and-a-half-month break between the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand and the start of the five-Test series against England during which they will prepare with intra-squad warm-up games.
The 24-member squad will just be enough to make two sides for these matches.
“The reason for carrying extra members in the squad is to ensure that India have back-up in case someone gets injured or gets infected with Covid-19, since it will be difficult to call up a player from India. A player called up will have to go through an entire process of quarantine,” said an official in the know of things.
While the lead-up to the WTC final against New Zealand may progress smoothly, the almost three-month period after the final will be crucial. If someone were to get injured or sick during the first phase, then it will make the entire plan go haywire.
There are a few Indian players who are already in United Kingdom playing league cricket who could be called up. Vidarbha captain and former India opener Faiz Fazal and Mumbai batsman Siddhesh Lad are among the first-class players who are or will be playing league cricket there.
Vidarbha batsman Apoorva Wankhede and Chhattisgarh player Sumit Ruikar are also there, among others.
“It will be nice if I get called up to help the India side in any way. I have been travelling to United Kingdom regularly and scoring runs here,” Fazal, who has reached Northern Ireland for league cricket after finishing quarantine, told IANS.
Fazal, with 125 first-class games, played an ODI for India in Zimbabwe in 2016 in which he scored a half-century. However, he hasn’t been considered for even India A in recent times though he has led his state side to two Ranji Trophy title triumphs recently as well as scored runs in domestic cricket.
Lad, with 61 first-class games under his belt and Rohit Sharma’s schoolmate, is playing in the Lancashire league. He has over 4,000 first-class runs.
“It depends on selectors and the team management if they decide to call up players from the league. The Board can’t make a decision on it on its own,” a senior Board official told IANS.
The selectors could find themselves in a Catch-22 situation if someone gets injured or falls sick. Many of the Indian team members like Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw will, most likely, be busy in a limited-overs series in Sri Lanka along with youngsters.
“It is impossible to call up players from outside since the bio-bubble is sacrosanct and the Indian team management will be extra careful after what happened in the Indian Premier League. So, whether it is from India or from England-based Indian first-class cricketers playing league, it will be tough to call up players,” said the official.
“However, the fact that England is open and movement is free may prompt selectors to consider league cricketers if the team management finds it necessary.”