Abhimanyu Easwaran will lead India A in the visiting England Lions’ first two fixtures in Ahmedabad later this month. The shadow tour to the five-Test series between India and England starts with a two-day warm-up game on January 12-13, followed by a four-day first-class fixture on January 17-20, both in Ahmedabad.
Abhimanyu was reserve opener during India’s recent two-Test tour of South Africa, and is a strong favourite to don a similar role during the home Tests. The squad also has B Sai Sudharsan, who struck back-to-back half-centuries in his first two ODIs against South Africa last month, as Abhimanyu’s likeliest opening partner, with Devdutt Padikkal not included. Padikkal, who featured in the first four-day fixture in South Africa last month, struck 193 against a strong Punjab attack in the opening round of the Ranji Trophy in Hubli on Saturday.
The middle order looks formidable, with Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraz Khan and Pradosh Ranjan Paul, Tamil Nadu’s highest run-getter from the 2022-23 Ranji season, rewarded for their consistency. Patidar and Sarfaraz could get special attention if the selectors are looking for middle-order options for the Test side – Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul were India’s No. 5 and No. 6 in South Africa behind No. 4 Virat Kohli.
KS Bharat, the reserve wicketkeeper on the tour of South Africa, is the first-choice stumper and a likely frontrunner to be in the squad as the second wicketkeeper for the England Tests, with Dhruv Jurel named his understudy. Jurel struck one of three half-centuries for India A in their second four-day fixture in Benoni late last month.
Meanwhile, there is a second India A call-up in the spin department for Rajasthan’s Manav Suthar. Whether it is a move aimed at not giving the English exposure to much top-quality spin or Suthar is, indeed, in the selectors’ radar isn’t known at this stage. But Suthar, a left-arm-spinner, enjoyed good returns in the last Ranji season picking up 39 wickets, and subsequently impressed at the Emerging Asia Cup in Sri Lanka in July. Pulkit Narang, who plies his trade for Services, is the second spin option.
Navdeep Saini, Vidwath Kaverappa, Tushar Deshpande and Akash Deep, all part of the ‘A’ squad in South Africa, have been rewarded with call-ups as the pace attack remains largely unaltered. While Saini, Deshpande and Akash Deep have been in the India A set-up for a while, Kaverappa forced his way in on the back of a strong showing for South Zone in the season-opening Duleep Trophy.
These games will be followed by two more four-day fixtures, also in Ahmedabad.
India A squad against England
Abhimanyu Easwaran (capt), B Sai Sudharsan, Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraz Khan, Pradosh Ranjan Paul, KS Bharat (wk), Manav Suthar, Pulkit Narang, Navdeep Saini, Tushar Deshpande, Vidwath Kaverappa, Dhruv Jurel (wk), Akash Deep