As is the case with any major team selection, there will always be some controversy. If a country, India in this case, has a large talent pool then picking 15-16 member squads will always result in some ‘deserving’ candidates missing the cut.
That was the case on Sunday as well after Indian selectors picked the squads for the full tour of the West Indies. With the World Cup over, new Test Championship upon us and the World T20 up next year, there were expectations of a few major changes in the squads for the two Test, three ODI, and three T20 squads with an eye on the future.
However, barring a few changes, the Indian selectors took the middle path; in fact, their World Cup picks turned out to be poorly thought out with replacement opener Mayank Agarwal not picked for the West Indies ODIs.
However, while Mayank at least got selected to the Test team, there are some who got completely overlooked. Here we take a look at five such players who deserved selection in at least one side.
Gill is seen by many as the most talented batsman in India, and that takes some doing. He was fast-tracked to the ODI team during the tour of New Zealand earlier in the year but was undone twice on heavily juiced wickets.
Even so, he had a decent IPL and hit successive one-day fifties for India A in their ongoing tour of the West Indies. At 19, Gill has age on his side but it is not wise to keep an in-form batsman like Gill away from the top level in all three formats, especially when the team can afford to give him a longer rope.
Perhaps as inexplicable an omission as Gill. The leg-spinner was in scintillating form in the IPL this year, snaring 20 wickets from 14 matches at an economy of 7.2. With more than five years of experience in the domestic circuit, time was right an international call-up, at least in T20s if not ODIs.
With the Yuzvendra Chahal-Kuldep Yadav combination losing all its fizz within a matter of months, it made sense to give Gopal a go, especially because he is a decent batsman with four first-class centuries. At least 25-year-old Gopal has age on his side.
It seems like end of the road for Karthik. Picked as purely a power hitter lower down the order, Karthik was promoted to number five in the 2019 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand with the team reeling at 5-3. He failed to rescue the team and seems to have been left behind.
The wicketkeeper batsman is still brilliant in the T20 format, which makes his omission from both limited overs squads inexplicable, especially since there was space for the hugely unimpressive Kedar Jadhav. Karthik is nearing 35 and this might just be it for him.
A left-arm spinner, fine lower order batsman and gun fielder? No, we are not talking about Ravindra Jadeja. Axar is in the same mould as Jadeja and has had to work twice as hard to overcome the Jadeja comparison. He proved his worth in the IPL (10 wickets from 14 games at economy of 7.1) and bowled well against West Indies ‘A’, while smashing whirlwind 81 not out to almost clinch an improbable win in the fourth game.
Axar is the kind of player you need in your T20 side as he does a little bit of everything and can win a match in all three aspects of the game.
Players like Manish Pandey and even KL Rahul have been given multiple chances at the international level on the basis of promise. However, Samson has not been so lucky, with just one T20 under his belt despite an excellent record as a class batsman who keeps wickets.
His record in T20s is impressive and Samson has the technique and temperament to take on the toughest challenges. But the Indian selectors aren’t convinced as yet. However, there should be an opening somewhere down the line as he is only 24.
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But international cricket continues and India’s next assignment is already round the corner – a full tour of the West Indies including three T20s, three ODIs and two Tests starting August 3.
The Indian squad was supposed to be announced on Friday but last-minute administrative issues and delay in receiving fitness reports meant a two-day delay. As things stand, the Indian team will be picked on Sunday and there are three major issues that the selectors will address:
MS Dhoni’s future
Ever since veteran keeper MS Dhoni failed to take the team past the finish in the World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand, speculation over his future was rife with some expecting his immediate retirement.
Even during the World Cup, legends like Sachin Tendulkar questioned the intent of Dhoni while batting, with the veteran gloveman’s slow yet steady approach looking increasingly out of place. With his successor Rishabh Pant already in the playing XI, it will be interesting to see what decision the selectors and Virat Kohli take. Or Dhoni himself drops a bombshell on Sunday?
Rest to key players
Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and Mohammed Shami are among the key all-format India players who have played almost non-stop in the last few months and the selectors will look to ensure their their top players don’t push themselves beyond breaking point.
There were reports that Kohli and Bumrah might sit out the entire tour but that is unlikely to happen. What’s more, Kohli might end up playing all three legs of the tour and not share the captaincy with Rohit Sharma, as was speculated.
Test bench strength
The selectors need to a take a call regarding some of the older players in the Indian set-up. With those on the bench – like batsman Shubman Gill, all-rounder Krunal Pandya and quick Navdeep Saini – putting in consistent performances, maybe it is time to given them a greater run in two formats.
It also means the next generation of Indian players might get a chance to not only keep the established seniors on their toes, but even take their position.
In the Test team, the return of Wriddhiman Saha as keeper makes for another interesting scenario as Pant has become the main Test keeper despite his form being the wicket not deemed good enough for 50 overs cricket.
Former India captain Rahul Dravid was appointed as head of the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru, which will see the legendary batsman monitor the development of next generation of Indian players and support staff.
Dravid has already achieved remarkable success as coach of India U19 and ‘A’ teams, playing a major hand in the development of players like Hardik Pandya and Prithvi Shaw, among others.
The former batting star has now been given a bigger platform by the BCCI to streamline player and support staff development on the lines of the structures in England and Australia.
The Indian board, in a statement, said: “Mr. Dravid will oversee all cricket related activities at NCA and will be involved in mentoring, coaching, training and motivating players, coaches and support staff at the NCA.
“Mr. Dravid will also work closely with the national men’s and women’s head coaches and coaches for developmental teams – including India A, India Under 19, India Under 23 teams, in the identification of key training and development objectives.”
According to ESPNcricinfo, the BCCI wants Dravid to “chart a pathway and structure for young talent to flourish” and convert the academy into a high-performance centre. According to reports, Dravid will delegate some of his coaching responsibilities owing to the increased workload. He is also “expected to create a programme for the development of physiotherapists and strength and conditioning coaches”.