It was a selection meeting. It went on for over three hours and by the time the squads were announced, it was almost 10.45 pm IST. And as the names were announced, one could see why this would not have been an easy meeting. There were decisions to be taken – decisions that cast a light on how this committee functions and how well they are planning for the future.
The Indian teams for the three-match T20I series against Windies, three-match T20I series against Australia and the four-Test series against Australia were announced. Also announced was India A team for First four-day game against New Zealand A.
The big decisions would have revolved around Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay and Mahendra Singh Dhoni but there are so many other ‘smaller’ decisions, almost all of which point to a very confused and muddled thinking.
Team for three T20I match series against Windies: Rohit Sharma (c), Shikhar, KL Rahul, DK, Manish, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Krunal Pandya, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed, Umesh Yadav, Shahbaz Nadeem.
Team for three T20I match series against Australia: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit (vc), Shikhar, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish, DK, Rishabh Pant (wk), Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar, Krunal Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Khaleel.
Team for Four Test match series against Australia: Virat Kohli (c), M Vijay, KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Parthiv Patel, R Ashwin, R Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Shami, Ishant, Umesh, Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
It was also announced that Kedar Jadhav has been included in the squad for the fourth and fifth ODIs against WI.
Here’s a quick look at the big talking points from the squad announcements:
The longest rope?
There is the long rope and then there is the longest rope – one that the selectors have usually employed for Rohit Sharma. Just a few days back, Sourav Ganguly had weighed in on the matter, saying that the Mumbai batsman deserved another go in Test cricket, and the selectors have obliged. The Mumbai batsman’s stellar form in ODI cricket will always tempt the selectors but one wonders whether that should be the case. Temperamentally and technically, Rohit does not seem to cut it in Test cricket – at least not in the away tours. So why have India gone back to him?
The selectors tell us that he is a good back-foot player and that should help in Australia but if they had this in mind (or in the back of their mind), shouldn’t Rohit have played some red-ball cricket against the West Indies? As things stand, he hasn’t played any red-ball cricket since the series against South Africa in January. Virat Kohli values Rohit’s match-winning potential but for how much longer can that potential continue to carry him into the Test teams.
Here we go.
- Drop a player
- Pick another one in his stead
- One plays county cricket and scores a few runs.
- The other sits on the bench in the Indian dressing room
- One scores a few more runs in the Vijay Hazare Trophy
- The other also goes out and scores a few runs in the Deodhar Trophy
- Guess who got picked for Australia?
“Vijay had been dropped from England series,” chief selector MSK Prasad said. “He went back and played County, showed that intent and he performed. Considering the intensity of this series, we have considered him for the Australia series.”
One has to feel for Mayank Agarwal – who got a 90 against the West Indies in the tour game. He spent time on the bench, did not get a game and then watched Vijay waltz into the squad for the Australia Test series. He might be wondering just what wrong has he done?
Granted, Vijay’s form for Essex wasn’t bad. He had scores of 56, 100, 85, 80 and 2. But should that be enough to dislodge a player who was picked ahead of him and not even given an opportunity?
Vijay scored 482 runs (1 hundred, 4 fifties) on India’s last tour of Australia, but this is clearly one decision made more on hope than certainty.
Keeping it real?
The teams are supposedly a good mix of experience and youth. We all know on which side of that mix sits Parthiv Patel. The veteran is back – thanks largely to Dinesh Karthik’s woeful show in England but more due to the selectors’ inability to look beyond the safe zone. Their lack of confidence in the keeping abilities of other young keepers give Parthiv another chance to make it back into the team.
“He (Parthiv) was not picked for the game against Afghanistan and also the England series, but subsequently he played the Duleep Trophy, he batted well and kept well,” said Prasad. “So, if you see the selection we’ve done for the whole team, it’s a mixture of youth and experience, which we really wanted because it’s going to be a high-intensity series, which is why we’ve fallen back on experience. The advantage of Parthiv is that he’s a left-hander and can bat at any order. When the team demanded, even with a fractured hand, he opened the innings in South Africa.”
If anything, it is sad that India have not been able to groom wicket-keepers to take over from MS Dhoni or even a Wriddhiman Saha. And going back to Parthiv is not a solution. It is a backward step and it needs to be seen in that light.
A question of balance
Hardik Pandya, India’s only genuine all-rounder, has not recovered in time from his back injury to be in the Test squad. There goes the balance of the squad, but there was nothing the selectors could do about this. “As of now, till November 15th he is actually not [available], we’ll have to see after that,” Prasad said.
With Pandya gone, it will be interesting to see if Virat Kohli continues with his five-bowler strategy. With Pandya around, Kohli always had options even if they weren’t always utilised. Now, he might have settle with bowlers who aren’t bonafide all-rounders but are capable batsmen alright – Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ravichandran Ashwin.
But if they don’t click and that is a possibility, then India might have a very long tail indeed. So will that open the door for Rohit Sharma back into the playing XI?
Communication issues resolved?
A day after communication issues came to the fore, Kedar Jadhav is back in the ODI squad for the fourth and fifth ODIs. This is also a day after Prasad said that one match was not enough for them to be convinced of Jadhav’s fitness. So what prompted their change of mind?
More than anything, the selectors now seem to be a group that are being led around on a merry chase by something or someone. Or maybe they are chasing their own shadows. This move highlights once again just how muddled their thinking is. For once, they need to take stand and show that their thought process has some value.
Time up for Dhoni in T20Is?
MS Dhoni has been left out the WI & AUS T20I series – he has been dropped for the first time since he established himself as a regular in Indian cricket. The selectors are looking for a second wicketkeeper.
“That will be between Rishabh [Pant] and Dinesh Karthik. So they will be getting a chance to keep and bat,” said Prasad, who also reiterated that “it is not the end of Dhoni in T20Is.”
One just hopes that the selectors have communicated this properly with Dhoni. Still, this means that the former Indian skipper’s time in T20Is for India might be coming to an end. Pant offers them a solid alternative in this format and Dhoni’s absence won’t be a worry as such. His quick-thinking though is another matter.