Chief selector MSK Prasad on Wednesday said that the selectors are willing to give Rishabh Pant a long rope and also claimed that former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has backed the committee’s decision to back youngsters.
While Dhoni has made himself unavailable for selection since the 50-over World Cup, the selection committee on Thursday included Sanju Samson as a back-up wicket-keeper for Pant in India’s T20 squad for the series against Bangladesh.
Prasad said that it was time for India to think beyond Dhoni. “I made it very clear post World Cup that we are moving on [from Dhoni],” Prasad said.
“We are giving opportunities to youngsters and see that they establish themselves in the side. With Rishabh Pant doing so well and Sanju Samson coming into the side, I am sure, you must be understanding our thought process. We definitely had a chat with Dhoni and he also endorses our view of backing youngsters.”
Putting his weight firmly behind Pant, Prasad said, “Post World Cup, I have been very clear on backing Rishabh Pant. So we will still back him [Pant] and see that he progresses well.
“Of course, he might sometimes not have the best of the matches the way we expect of him, but we can still only make a player by backing somebody. So, we are confident that he will come out successful and that’s been the thought process post World Cup, and we focusing on Rishabh Pant.”
Prasad said Dhoni’s future was not in his hands. “Going into domestic cricket, getting his touch back or thoughts about retirement.....everything is purely his personal decision. We’ve already laid the roadmap for future, I’m sure you can see in the way we are selecting the teams.”
The five-man panel also handed young all-rounder Shivam Dube a place in the squad. “Earlier we had Hardik Pandya, then we also tried Vijay Shankar. All of us agreed in unison that the role we have, he [Dube] fits in very well. He bats aggressively, his performances in the India A Series in West Indies and also against South Africa in the ODIS (for India A) was phenomenal. He has gone up by leaps and bounds, a notch higher and we are convinced about it.”
Prasad also said that they are looking at Samson as a top-order batsman. “We are looking at him as a batsman who can keep. Definitely, he will play at the top,” he said.
Samson had played his only T20 against Zimbabwe in 2015. A regular in the India A set up, the 25-year-old has been rewarded for a good Vijay Hazare Trophy season, having amassed 410 runs in eight innings, including a double-century earlier this month.
Prasad said Samson’s inconsistency had kept him away from selection all these years.
“Samson was there in the Indian team 4-5 years ago, his problem was inconsistency. In the last one year, he has had a fantastic IPL followed by a good India A series against South Africa and then a wonderful Vijay Hazare as well,” he said. “He is more consistent now and that is the reason we thought of drafting him in the squad.