All eyes will be on the Indian selection committee, under a new chairman in Sunil Joshi, as they get set to pick the squads for the tour of Australia next month. It feels like it's ages since India last played international cricket; they have been out of action due to COVID-19 since the tour of New Zealand in February this year. They were supposed to play an ODI series against South Africa at home in March, but COVID-19 ensured that didn't happen.
Now, with the coronavirus regulations in place, India are set to pick a 32-member touring party for the tour for three formats. The extra members will serve as reserves and also net bowlers, as local net bowlers cannot be utilised due to the circumstances. The tour begins with three T20Is starting November 26 before it moves to the three-ODI series and the four-Test Border-Gavaskar clash.
We look at the key questions the selectors face ahead of the meeting.
KL Rahul the Test opener again?
Rohit Sharma had a stellar beginning to his Test opener role last year, slamming three big tons including a double-century in the home season. However, he was ruled out of the Tests in the tour of New Zealand with an injury.
In his absence, Prithvi Shaw got to open with Mayank Agarwal but couldn't set the stage on fire, with all Indian batsmen struggling in the tour. Now, Rohit is set to take back his spot as the Test opener along with Agarwal.
However, the selectors have to figure out who the third opener will be. Will it be Shaw, or will they go back to KL Rahul? Albeit in a totally different format, Shaw and Rahul have been in contrasting forms in the IPL. Rahul is high on confidence and could get another chance in whites, where he last played in the tour of West Indies last year. Rahul has the experience of batting in Australia too. He scored a ton in his second Test in Sydney in 2015 but in the next tour, he had multiple failures which cost him his spot. Life could come a full circle in 2020.
It's unlikely due to foreign conditions, but the selectors could also consider Shubman Gill as the reserve opener/top-order batsman considering his stellar run for India A.
The pacers and all-rounder question
Ishant Sharma is injured. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is injured. The severity of these injuries is not known yet, but these will be big concerns for the selectors going into their meeting. Given India have not played Test cricket for a long time, more injuries are a possibility through the tour.
India will need reserve options in the Test squad. Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj will be front runners to fill in the role. Both have pace, while Saini has the ability to get good bounce as well.
Now to the all-rounders list. Hardik Pandya hasn't bowled a single ball in the IPL so far, and it remains to be seen if he is fit to bowl in Test cricket. If not, will he merit a place as a batsman? The only other medium pace bowling all-round options are Vijay Shankar and Shivam Dube, who are unlikely to make it to Test cricket. Thus, India might just rely on Ravindra Jadeja to do the all-round duties given the improvement in his batting.
Limited-overs: Big chance for Suryakumar Yadav, Axar Patel
With three T20Is and three ODIs at the start of the tour, India could see some fresh faces in the limited-overs squads. The freshest of them is likely to be Suryakumar Yadav, the Mumbai Indians batsman who has been super-impressive through the last year.
Suryakumar has been in stellar form in white ball cricket since last year and has capped it with a consistent show in the IPL, where he has made 283 runs at a strike rate of 148.94 batting at No. 3. Expect him to finally break into the T20I squad. Sanju Samson has been on and off, but given he was in the mix last year and the large touring party, he could be in too.
Another player who has had an impressive IPL 2020 is Axar Patel, who has 8 wickets from 10 matches at an economy of just 5.78. Given Kuldeep Yadav is not even a starter for KKR, it's likely that Axar will be given a go ahead among the spin options. Washington Sundar and Yuzvendra Chahal will be the other guaranteed spinners in the squad.
The wicketkeeper slot
Rishabh Pant's fitness and form has put him under the scanner this IPL, but if the New Zealand tour was any pointer, he's still the first-choice keeper with Wriddhiman Saha coming second. Even if Rahul comes into the Test squad, it's unlikely that he'll be considered a keeping option, so expect Pant to continue, fitness permitting.
However, Rahul is set to continue as the limited-overs keeper ahead of Pant. The Delhi keeper was dropped from the XI for the white-ball formats, and the only way he could have made it back immediately was through a good IPL. However, that hasn't happened yet. Rahul has been impressive and shown ability to adapt to different situations and batting orders, so expect him to continue.