IND vs SL | We’ll definitely give chances to players Kohli and Shastri want to see, attests Shikhar Dhawan

Captain for the Sri Lanka tour, Shikhar Dhawan insisted that India, across the six games, will definitely be giving opportunities to the younger players who Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli have shortlisted as potential WT20 candidates. Dhawan admitted that the tour could play a hand in WT20 selection.

Starting today, India will play an extended white-ball series against a depleted Lankan side – 3 ODIs and 3 T20Is – but given India themselves will field a ‘B’ team, the focus is less on results and more on the individuals. The young Indian squad boasts a plethora of players – capped and uncapped – in line for potential World T20 selection, and the forthcoming white-ball series is being viewed by many as a golden opportunity for players to stake their claim for the World Cup.

Addressing the media on Saturday, stand-in skipper Shikhar Dhawan stressed that, across the six matches, team India will definitely give opportunities to individuals shortlisted by incumbent coach and skipper Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli as potential WT20 candidates.

“I haven’t had any specific discussion with Virat or Ravi bhai. But I am sure they must have had some sort of discussion with Rahul bhai and selectors and I am sure we would be conveyed that message,” Dhawan said on Saturday.

“Whoever is playing this series, is looking at the T20 World Cup. Of course, if selectors, Ravi bhai or Virat have some players in mind, we can mutually agree and play that player as this is a good platform. If you want to see someone before World T20, this is the only series you have.”

With the Indian senior side set to play a five-Test series and then the IPL, the Sri Lanka tour serves as the only opportunity for the management to not just try out new faces, but also evaluate those in the fringes. Adding context to the series by talking about the bigger picture, Dhawan admitted that ‘further doors will be opened’ for individuals should they pass the Lankan test with flying colours.

“This series is important, any series we play for India is important. Even if there is no World Cup in the coming months or not, it does not matter. Every player wants to give his best. There is competition for the opening slot. I want my team to do well in this series. If we perform well, then further doors will open,” Dhawan said.

An in-demand spot is the opener’s slot, and there are a handful of youngsters – all of whom have done well in the IPL – competing to partner Dhawan at the top of the order. Dhawan claimed that his opening partner has been ‘finalized’, but refused to give away who it was.

“We have finalised my opening partner and the team as well, which we are going to disclose tomorrow.”

Dhawan also refused to confirm whether the much-awaited KulCha reunion will happen. Instead, the 35-year-old lavished praise on all spinners in the squad, and stressed that every individual has been bowling well in lead-up to the series.

“Of course they (Kuldeep and Chahal) share a great chemistry. They have played so many matches, bowling really well. Even Rahul is a great spinner. We have a bunch of boys bowing well, they are on top of their game and you will see them bowling well,” the skipper said.

Sunday’s clash will be Rahul Dravid’s first assignment with the senior side, having worked extensively across the past 4 years with the youngsters. Dhawan claimed that Dravid is an inherently different character compared to Shastri, but insisted that he enjoys working with the former Indian skipper.

“They (Dravid and Shastri) both have their own qualities and they both are very positive people. I have spent time with Ravi Bhai (Ravi Shastri) and their ways to motivate are different.

“Ravi Bhai’s energy is a bit strong, whereas Rahul Bhai (Rahul Dravid) is very calm, composed and strong as well, so everyone has their own way and I enjoy playing under both of them.”

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