Venketesh Iyer and Harshal Patel rewarded for their success in IPL season 14
The IPL continues to be the supply line for the national team, mainly for white-ball cricket. Over the last fourteen seasons budding players have attempted to play out of their skin, impress the franchisees’ scouts in order to make the breakthrough. Some have been lucky to get into the Twenty20 bandwagon and have gone further higher to become an integral part of the Indian team, either for the one day or the Twenty20 team.
On Tuesday, the five national selectors, perhaps in consultation with the skipper Rohit Sharma and Head Coach Rahul Dravid rewarded a handful of players — who had a good run for the first time in the IPL or continued to have a good second season .— a place in the Indian team for the three- match Twenty20 series to be played against New Zealand at Jaipur, Ranchi and Kolkata.
Opening batter Venketesh Iyer and seamer Harshal Patel are the two who have forced their way into the team playing brave cricket with the bat and splendid seam bowling. Iyer, from Indore, scored 320 runs for the Kolkata Knight Riders in nine innings of the phase 2 played in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
Iyer riveted attention on him right through after showing his mettle in the 27 ball unbeaten 41 against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, whose captain was Virat Kohli. He followed it up with three half centuries, and made scores in a daredevil manner in most other matches. His 320 off 256 balls at a strike rate of 7.50 was chiefly responsible for KKR to bounce back in the second phase of the IPL and reaching the final.
An exceptional performer for Madhya Pradesh in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy Twenty20 tournament, Iyer had the benefit of a brilliant player like Brendon McCullum who set new benchmarks across all formats of the game and had given a roaring start to the IPL in 2008 with a whirlwind unbeaten 158 for KKR against the RCB in Bangalore. Iyer played fearless cricket and showed good cricketing sense. He will have the benefit of gaining knowledge under Dravid and Sharma.
With Sharma and K.L.Rahul being the opening pair, Iyer could find a place in tbe middle order or lower middle order. Sharma has options to use Ruturaj Gaikwad, Iyer, Ishan Kishan, but only after the likes of Suryakumar Yadav is given a fair run.Moreover, Shreyas Iyer, a proven talent in white ball cricket is also in the team. Iyer's chances will open up after left-hander Rishabh Pant who could get an upper slot. With Kohli, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja rested, Sharma will get a chance to test the fresh talent in batting.
Maharashtra's Gaikwad did wonders (635 runs in IPL 14 season) for the Chennai Super Kings- He is already in India's scheme of things across all formats and has played two Twenty20 internationals against Sri Lanka. Gaikwad received the vote of confidence for a series that will be followed with keen interest.
Harshal Patel took 32 wickets in his ninth IPL season and has got the call at age 30. He will be competing with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohd. Siraj, Deepak Chahar and Delhi Capitals's Avesh Khan. Again Sharma has a basketful of seamers and spinners. With Axar Patel likely to play the lead role with Ravichandran Ashwin and leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, it is possible that 12 overs will be sent by the slow spinners.
Talking of a fresh face. Avesh Khan has bern part of the net bowlers set up. He took 24 wickets for the Capitals in IPL 14 with an economy rate of 7.38, which is much lower than his IPL average of 8.23 over a period of five IPL seasons. With Bumrah and Mohammad Shami being rested, Sharma will get opportunities to explore with the new talent, who are seam bowlers, and far from express fast. Siraj has played three Twenty20 internationals and should figure in the playing XI at Jaipur.
Performances in the three match series could count a lot as India is set to play a full series comprising three Tests, three ODIs and four Twenty20 internationals in South Africa from mid-December.