When newly selected MSK Prasad-led committee on Thursday announced India's ODI squad for the New Zealand series, there were few surprises – but those few were real big surprises.
When Sandeep Patil came out after his last meeting as the head of BCCI's selection committee after announcing the Test squad for India against New Zealand on September 13, 2016, he had this to say: “We have taken some bold and tough decisions looking at the future of Indian cricket. We are very happy at the end of our term that the team is doing well in all three formats and I wish the next committee all the best.” But on Thursday, it had to be said, with a little bit of hesitation, that Patil's vision has not been fully imbibed by his successors.
When newly selected MSK Prasad-led committee on Thursday announced India's ODI squad for the New Zealand series, there were few surprises – but those few were real big surprises. The panel's decision to rest spin duo Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, along with pacer Mohammed Shami, was a wise call - it will help India's premier bowlers to remain fresh for the long home season. Injuries to KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan also meant that the door is open for Ajinkya Rahane to bat further up the order and open the innings alongside Rohit Sharma. With some of the key players rested, the committee retained seven of the players who were picked four months ago for the Zimbabwe tour.
The inclusion of players such as Mandeep Singh and Manish Pandey also made sense as both the batsmen played a crucial role in securing the Quadrangular A-Team One-Day series in Australia for India A last month. Jadeja and Ashwin's non-presence only means that leg-spinner Amit Mishra will now be the go-to bowler for MS Dhoni with Axar Patel the second. But the committee seemed to have gone for a lottery for one of the positions. And Hardik Pandya came out as the winner in that.
When the Baroda all-rounder burst onto the scene with a match-winning knock of 61 off 31 balls against Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL 2015, it was believed to be a flash-in-the-pan moment. But with his impressive performances for Mumbai Indians that season, Pandya was given a chance to play for India in the Asia Cup and World T20 in early 2016. Despite being given such a huge chance, Pandya's best performance in the national colours so far has been his last over in that World T20 match against Bangladesh, which they won by the closest margin of 1 run. Since then, the 23-year old's performances have only gone downhill.
His exclusion from India's limited-overs squad for the Zimbabwe tour in June was just about right from the Sandeep Patil-led selection panel as Pandya's IPL 2016 stats spoke for themselves. 44 runs and 3 wickets in 11 matches for the Mumbai Indians meant that he still had a lot to prove on the domestic front before he could be considered for the national team again.
Following another snub for India's T20s against West Indies, Pandya travelled with India A to Australia but only returned with 5 wickets and 47 runs in 7 matches in the Quadrangular series. Apart from a knock of 79 runs in the first innings of the Test against Australia A, Pandya has no other performance to back him up for a place in the Indian squad.
But sources at the BCCI say that the Baroda all-rounder was given a chance in a bid to include a fast-bowling all-rounder for the next year's Champions Trophy in England. Now this means the place for someone like Kedar Jadhav or Mandeep Singh in the team should have been sacrificed to accommodate Pandya. But, if Pandya can be given an undeserved second chance, then Stuart Binny, as the team's most experienced fast-bowling all-rounder, should be given a shot to redeem himself. Granted Binny has not covered himself in glory in the past three series, but better the devil you know than the one you don't – especially when that unknown has failed to perform at even a lower level.
Jayant Yadav is also another selection where it is hard to explain the committee's decision. Despite being picked up by the selectors for three straight series, Jayant still remains uncapped for India. The Haryana offspinner was expected to get a game when he was first selected for India's tour of Zimbabwe in June. After MS Dhoni decided to go with the combination of Amit Mishra and Axar Patel in that series, Jayant was given a chance in the longer format of the game replacing injured Ishant Sharma in the Indian squad for the second Test against New Zealand after impressive performances for India A.
His inclusion in the ODI squad against the Kiwis is like previous selection panel's idea to include Bengal batsman Manoj Tiwary for numerous series just to carry drinks on to the pitch. Also, the selectors ignoring the likes of performances in the Deodhar Trophy, Syed Mushtaq Ali Tournament and Vijay Hazare Trophy in favour of the cash-rich IPL and single tours such as India A's Australian tour only spells missed chances for many of the talented cricketers trying to make it to the Indian team.
It is not guaranteed that every decision taken by the selection committee will be successful. However, it sometimes borders on the puzzling when you see some names. Given the selection is only for the first 3 ODIs though, the possibility of being dropped for the final two matches will keep the players focussed on performing well in the limited chance they are given.
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