When MSK Prasad announced the squads for the Twenty20s and Tests against West Indies and Australia, there was a sense of shock. In a squad which included some surprises and some deserving picks, one notable omission headlined news all over the world.
MS Dhoni’s exclusion for the West Indies and Australia Twenty20s was the first time the former Indian skipper was dropped from the team ever since he established himself as a big name in the side. The fact that it comes at a time when his finishing prowess and big scores are on the wane in ODIs has given rise to speculation that his time is coming to an end.
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In the past couple of years, when it comes to Twenty20s, his average and strike-rate are on the up. His prowess in international Twenty20s is on par with his IPL performance, where he is a proven finisher par excellence. This was not the case prior to 2017 when there were questions raised about his ability
However, with Dhoni slated to only play till the 2019 World Cup, picking Rishabh Pant is a good way to groom him in terms of batting and glovework for the next Twenty20 World Cup which will be played in Australia in 2020. If one has to sum up Dhoni’s exclusion, it is a confounding decision considering that Dhoni is now actually playing better in the shorter format.
Selectors’ mixed signals confuse players
If the call to axe Dhoni was confounding, then the selection and non-selection of some players has confounded Indian cricket followers.
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The classic case in point is Mayank Agarwal. In the 2017/18 season, the right-hander hammered 2141 runs across all formats combined in domestic cricket. He not only knocked on the doors of national selection, he was banging them hard enough to bring it down. However, tests against Afghanistan, England and West Indies have passed and Agarwal still does not have his chance. Worst, he was in the West Indies squad, did not get a game and was overlooked for the Australia series.
In Agarwal’s case, scoring runs in domestic level is apparently not the criteria to national selection. If that is not the case, then what is? The MSK Prasad-selection panel has not communicated this message clearly. In fact, the current selection regime has suffered from lack of communication in this entire period.
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Karun Nair and Murali Vijay have voiced their opinions that the selectors did not have a clear chat with them when it comes to their non-selection. The irony is, Karun has still not been picked since scoring a triple century in his last Test while Vijay has been picked after failing in England and not playing in the West Indies series.
The Kedar Jadhav situation is farcical. After not getting selected for the last three ODIs, Prasad stated that Jadhav’s ‘history of injuries’ resulted in his non-selection. Miraculously, 20 hours and a Deodhar Trophy match later, Jadhav was picked for the last two ODIs against West Indies. The way how this situation was handled was farcical to say the least.
A Rohit surprise
Most of the players selected for the Tests and T20s against Australia and West Indies were well-deserved. However, the selection of Rohit Sharma for the Tests was a surprising sign.
After failing in South Africa, Rohit was not picked for the Tests in England. Even during his off-period, Rohit did not play a single First-Class game. His statistics in Tests overseas has not really set the stage on fire. Picking a player who has not contributed at Test or First-Class arena for some time was indeed a surprise. Perhaps, in this case, the selectors have leaned on past experience. A closer look at the Test squad gives an indication that India are potentially playing seven batsmen in Australia, with one bowling all-rounder in Ravindra Jadeja.
However, what is clear is that the MSK Prasad-led selection panel need a crash course in clear communication and player management. With the chopping and changing culture under the Virat Kohli-Ravi Shastri already denting the confidence of some players, a confused selection panel is the last thing Indian cricket needs.
47.4 overs: WICKET! J Bumrah (0) is out, c Jason Holder b Marlon Samuels, 240 all out