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The muddled decisions of India's selectors

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MSK_Prasad_India_Team_Selectors_SelectionRecently, there has been no shortage of occasions when the Indian selection committee has attracted eyeballs for their controversial decisions. The MSK Prasad-led panel has been in the news in the last year or so for their inability to stick to players and back them repeatedly; and for taking the safe route and trying to avoid controversial news. Ironically, in their attempt to stay clear of any backlash, they have managed to receive more than enough of just that. The recent announcement of the squads for the 3 T20Is and 4 Tests in Australia highlight the muddled mindset that prevails.

The biggest news was the absence of MS Dhoni from the T20I squad. In all honesty, he is long past his expiry date in the shortest format. However, by refusing to use the word “dropped”, instead suggesting that the former skipper was “rested” to give Rishabh Pant a chance, Prasad further attracted negative comments, whilst also proving the fact that miscommunication was rampant in the Indian cricket set-up.

“Dhoni’s not going to play the 6 T20Is because we’re looking at the second keeper slot. It is not the end of Dhoni in T20Is.”

 

If Dhoni was not selected keeping the future in mind - Dhoni will be 39 by the T20I World Cup in 2020 - there is no reason to shy away from stating that. Secondly, if Dhoni was “rested” to give Pant a chance at keeping, why is it that Dinesh Karthik was keeping wickets in the T20I games against the Windies? Karthik was already in the T20 squads, so the logic here seems flawed. Also, if a 37-year-old does not play against two strong T20I teams, what are the chances that he will return for the World T20 two years later?

 

It must be remembered that when Ravi Ashwin was dropped from the ODI squad last year, Prasad had again hesitated to use the dreaded “D”-word, instead suggesting that the off-spinner had been “rested”. His “rest” seems to have gone on for well over a year now, as he hasn’t featured in an ODI game since June 2017.

However, Dhoni was not the only one in the news. Kedar Jadhav, who had suffered an injury in the Asia Cup finals and had returned to full fitness was not in the T20I squad, though he had been added to the team for the last three ODIs against the Windies. The in-form all-rounder has the ability to change the game with both bat and ball, and has been a go-to player for the Indian side in the recent past. Hence, his omission raised a few eyebrows, as did Prasad’s reason for not picking the Pune cricketer.

“We did not pick Kedar because of his history of fitness. There have been occasions earlier when he has come back fit and then broke down, a case in point being the Asia Cup last month.”

 

It seems illogical to not pick a player based on his history with injuries. It is tough to predict when a cricketer might get injured, so why not go in with the best 15 and then think of a suitable replacement IF he is injured? By thinking of a hypothetical situation, not only are they robbing an athlete of a chance to play as many matches as possible, they are also ensuring that the best 11 does not take the field. The above decision, then, puts the panel in a poor light.

 

Those decisions were not the end though. In the Test side, the non-selection of Mayank Agarwal and Karun Nair and the selection of Rohit Sharma, who has not played red-ball cricket since the tour to South Africa ended abysmally for him, were hard to ignore.

Rohit had a torrid time in the Rainbow Nation, and he was dropped from the squad to England as well. He did not set the domestic stage on fire either, so one is forced to wonder what he has done to warrant a place in the Test side to Australia. If he has been selected based on his exploits in limited overs internationals, then it should again be reemphasized that the technique and approach required in the two formats are completely different.

The Mumbaikar had been selected for South Africa after his double century against the Lankans in an ODI game, and with Virat Kohli firm on going with form over reputation, Rohit got a chance in the Test XI over Ajinkya Rahane.

His repeated failure saw him dropped for the Tests in England, but the selectors seem to have made the same mistake once again, preferring the ODI opener based on his white-ball successes.

 

If a player can have an indifferent form in the longest format and still be selected, what is the purpose of Ranji cricket? Players like Faiz Fazal, Karun Nair and Mayank Agarwal have been consistently plying their trade for years at the domestic level, but if the selectors go on ignoring their efforts and keep awarding a Test spot to a player who has tasted success in ODIs, will it not thwart their morale?

 

Agarwal especially can consider himself to be hard done by. He was selected in the Test squad for West Indies but did not play a single game. Without even getting a chance to fail, he was dropped from the series Down Under. A similar incident had taken place with Nair too, who has gone off the radar after his triple hundred in 2016. He was in the squad for the tour of England, but was dropped for the series against the Windies, Agarwal replacing him.

With Rohit coming into the team now, it would only be natural for the players to question the process in the Indian camp, which seems to lack any direction and vision.



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