Injured T20I captain Hardik Pandya is unlikely to be available for India's upcoming five-match series against Australia starting November 23 as the star all-rounder will require more time to recover from his left-ankle ligament tear.
It is understood that the team for the home T20I series against Australia will be announced only after India's World Cup semifinal, which in all likelihood will be played in Mumbai on November 15.
According to sources in the BCCI, a more practical scenario for Hardik would be to get fit by the time the South Africa T20 series starts from December 10 in Durban.
"There is some time before Hardik can be declared fit and available for selection. It would be more practical for him to try and complete his rehabilitation with a possible 'RTP' (Return To Play) during SA series. It will certainly be NCA Sports science team's call," a senior BCCI source privy to the developments told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
It is understood that either Suryakumar Yadav, the designated vice-captain of the T20I side, or Asian Games gold-winning skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad will be leading the side.
While Surya is playing in the ODI World Cup, unlike seniors like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and the pace unit, which needs to be fresh for the Test series, the Mumbai Indians star is currently being looked at as a two-format white-ball specialists.
It is an accepted norm that white-ball Indian specialists (especially batters) can play 25-30 games per year across two white-ball formats apart from IPL, fitness permitting. Hence, if Surya himself doesn't ask for rest, he is the favourite to lead the side. If not, Ruturaj is the next best choice.
Looking at T20 World Cup in the Americas
The T20 World Cup will be held in the Americas (United States and West Indies) in June and July next year after the IPL and the core team for the Australia series will be formed by all those who played in Ireland and the Asian Games.
"Obviously, during any big event, someone like Jasprit Bumrah will be pressed into the action as he would be nicely warmed up with sufficient game time post the Indian Premier League. Ditto for a Mohammed Siraj," the official said.
The likes of Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan, Mukesh Kumar are likely to be picked for the series.
For the upcoming Australia series, it is expected that the likes of Sanju Samson, Ishan Kishan, Yuzvendra Chahal are expected to make a comeback to the side apart from those who performed during the Asian Games. If Axar Patel recovers from his hamstring injury, he will be selected as Ravindra Jadeja surely would get rest before the South Africa tour.
What about Bhuvi, Parag, Abhishek?
If one goes by the pattern of Indian team selection over the past few years, the key to success has been consistency in selection.
To be selected in the Indian team, good show in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT) is important but it is more important to crack the IPL code year after year.
There are three prominent SMAT performers this time -- Abhishek Sharma, Riyan Parag and veteran Bhuvneshwar Kumar -- but the question remains where will they be fitted? Bhuvneshwar had been exceptional in the tournament with 16 wickets from seven games with an economy rate of under six runs per over. The swing is back and, for the domestic batters, he was virtually unplayable. But with an average speed of 128-130 kmph, will he still be effective in international cricket is something Ajit Agarkar and his colleagues need to address.
Similarly, Abhishek Sharma (485 runs, 2 hundreds, 3 fifties) has scored all his runs at the opening slot where India already has Ruturaj, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ishan Kishan and even Shubman Gill when he is well rested.
Abhishek's left-arm spin is an advantage but might not be good enough as of now to merit selection.
In case of the flamboyant Riyan (510 and 11 wickets), possibly the first cricketer from Assam who is very close to national selection, his competitors for middle-order slots are Rahul Tripathi, Tilak Varma and Rinku Singh, who have been proven IPL performers and deserve a long rope in T20 format going into next year's World Cup.
In case of his off-spin, Riyan has Washington Sundar, who if fit, walks into the T20 squad, as competitor.
Riyan's name is under consideration but whether he leapfrogs any of the current IPL middle-order performers, courtesy his seven fifties in SMAT, is there to be seen.
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