With the big guns busy in England, there was room for fresh faces to be included in the Indian team for the limited-over tour of Sri Lanka.
The selectors thus handed maiden India call-ups to five players — Devdutt Padikkal, K. Gowtham, Chetan Sakariya, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Nitish Rana.
Stylish opening batsman Padikkal has enjoyed a fast rise to the top. In the lead up to the IPL earlier this year, Padikkal smashed four consecutive centuries in the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy for Karnataka. The 20-year-old carried this fine form to the IPL, scoring the fastest century for an uncapped player with an unbeaten 101 off 52 balls against Rajasthan Royals.
Padikkal’s State teammate Gowtham has built a reputation for being a match-winner. His accurate, flat off-spin and big hitting prowess have time and again rescued Karnataka in the domestic circuit. The 32-year-old struck gold in the 2021 IPL auction, when he was signed for a record sum of ₹9.25 crore by Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Gowtham, however, could not find a spot in the CSK playing eleven in the curtailed IPL season.
Left-arm pacer Sakariya has overcome tremendous personal tragedies in the past year to make a mark. A month before bagging a ₹1.2 crore IPL contract with Rajasthan Royals, his brother passed away. Sakariya then lost his father to COVID-19 complications. On the field, the 23-year old Saurashtra fast bowler picked up seven wickets in seven IPL games, including two three-wicket hauls. That Sakariya was chosen ahead of his Saurashtra senior Jaydev Unadkat — a left-arm speedster with a stellar record — has raised some eyebrows.
Ruturaj has witnessed a steady rise through the ranks, under the guidance of former India captain Rahul Dravid in the India-A structure. In the IPL this year, he opened the batting for CSK, making two fifties (75 vs Sunrisers Hyderabad and 64 vs Kolkata Knight Riders). The compact Maharashtra batsman was the lone bright in a disappointing IPL 2020 for CSK, recording three fifties to finish with a tournament average of 51. His talent was obvious to CSK teammate and South African captain Faf du Plessis, who stated that Ruturaj reminded him of a young Virat Kohli.
Southpaw batsman Nitish Rana faced a stumbling block even before the IPL began, having tested positive for COVID-19. In his first match after recovering from the virus, Rana claimed the man-of-the-match with a 56-ball 80 against Sunrisers Hyderabad. A thinking player, Rana is adept at both keeping the scorers busy with singles and going for the big blows.