The tour of the West Indies is a great opportunity for the Indian team to put the disappointment of the semi-final defeat in the World Cup behind and once again focus on setting themselves new goals and moving towards them with renewed enthusiasm.
India will play three T20s, three ODIs and two tests in the Caribbean and that will give the selectors enough cricket to test out the fringe strength and also decide who they want to back for the next year or so.
At times, Indian cricket has been hurt by the lack of consistency in the selections, especially in the middle order, and that came back to haunt them during the World Cup.
Here’s a look at the challenges ahead of the selection committee, which will meet in Mumbai on Sunday, as they pick the squads for the West Indies tour:
Should Kohli play?
Virat Kohli would love to play but should he? He has played a lot of cricket in the recent past and rest for the limited-over formats would probably do him and India more good than harm. He didn’t have as great a World Cup as he would have hoped for and he may want to get back to his fluent best but India really has to get into the forward-planning mode. One of the ways of doing that is to open up more slots in the middle order to try out new batsmen and give them an extended run. With Kohli around, that is simply not going to happen.
According to reports, Mahendra Singh Dhoni will take a two-month break to train with the Territorial Army, so he won’t be available for selection. But that isn’t the problem. Rather, the larger issue here is whether India want to persist with the former skipper till the 2020 T20 World Cup. If India wants to do that then Dhoni needs to be playing as much cricket as possible to stay competition-sharp. Is it okay for him to pick and choose what he wants to play when he hardly plays any domestic cricket other than the IPL? Either which way, the selectors and Indian cricket need greater transparency on the matter at hand.
Ever since Australia got stuck into him during the ODIs in India before the World Cup, Kuldeep Yadav seems like a changed bowler. He got hammered during the Indian Premier League as well and was eventually dropped from the playing XI in favour of Ravindra Jadeja during the World Cup. His lack of confidence is clear and the selectors will need to decide whether it makes more sense to give him a break and let him recover his mental equilibrium or to throw him in the deep end and see whether he sinks or swims.
The ever-present No 4 problem
India have not had a proper No 4 since Yuvraj Singh. And that’s saying something given that the left-hander played his last ODI in June 2017. They eventually settled on Vijay Shankar for the World Cup but an injury to the allrounder [who had not exactly convinced in the slot] meant India had to look for a stop-gap replacement. That replacement was Rishabh Pant and it didn’t turn out as the Indian team management might have hoped. Going forward, will India persist with Pant at No 4 or will they try and give youngsters like Shreyas Iyer or Shubman Gill more opportunities? They may also go back to Manish Pandey, who has been in good form for India ‘A’ and presently touring the Caribbean.
KL Rahul: opener or No 4
The Indian team management is convinced that KL Rahul’s got it. But is KL Rahul himself convinced? He had a decent run in the World Cup [361 runs at 45.12] after being asked to step into the opener’s slot as a result of the injury to Shikhar Dhawan but the technical flaws persist as do the mental ones. Would he be better suited at No 4 where his technique won’t be tested in quite the same way or should he continue to be the opener given that Dhawan is already 33 and may not be around by the time the next World Cup comes along?