Windies series a missed opportunity to try newcomers, says Aakash Chopra

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Windies series a missed opportunity to try newcomers, says Aakash Chopra

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SportsCafe Desk


Former India opener Akash Chopra termed India's recently concluded ODI series against West Indies as a missed opportunity to try youngsters in a bid to analyse options for the 2019 World Cup. However, Chopra termed Hardik Pandya and Kuldeep Yadav's performances as a major boost for the Indian team.

India won the recently concluded ODI series against the Windies 3-1 and continued their dominance in the ODI cricket. Ajinkya Rahane starred in the series dominating with the bat as India overcame an inexperienced and young Windies team. However, Rishabh Pant was not included in the playing XI for any of the five ODIs, which has raised many eyebrows as the 19-year old is being considered as the front-runner to take MS Dhoni's position behind the stumps.

"The ODI series against a weak Windies team should've been treated as an opportunity to know everything that there is to know about your reserves, but by leaving the newcomers out of the playing XI, that opportunity was wasted," Chopra wrote in his column for Mid-Day.

"A series against the current West Indies should be seen and been treated as an opportunity to know everything that there's to know about your reserves. The cumulative ODI experience of the entire West Indian team was lesser than Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni alone. Since India lost one game, some might argue that even that experience wasn't enough to win every single game and therefore, it was prudent to pick and play the strongest possible side," he added.

The 39-year old even went on to suggest India could have fielded a second-string side against the West Indies as it would have helped the men in blue identify the potential prospects for the upcoming 2019 World Cup team.

"The other side of the argument is that if India had played a second string side, it would've lost, may be, a game more and even that wouldn't have made a huge difference to the team's fortunes.

"And to assume that India would've lost the series if Yuzvendra Chahal, Rishabh Pant, Basil Thampi and Sanju Samson had played is preposterous, for that would be underestimating the younger brigade and over-estimating the West Indies. Even if that was the case, it's better to lose a series and know your wards than losing an opportunity to know them. But whose responsibility was it to give everyone a go? The captain or the selectors?" he questioned.

The veteran cricket analyst answered his question citing an example of Dhoni's inclusion in the squad for the West Indies tour.

"Before championing anyone's cause, allow me to share a story. Not too long ago, the national selectors told the captain that a legend was a surplus and they didn't want him in the playing XI. The captain was also on the same page but requested the selectors to take a call themselves and not leave it for him to do the dirty work, and he was right. If the selectors wanted to pull the trigger, it's only fair for them to hold the gun too.

"As it turned out in the end, selectors selected the said player and the captain dutifully played him in the XI. While every team selection adopts a fair bit of consensus and reflects a shared vision, it's the selectors' call in the end."

Yuvraj Singh was rested in the last two games owing to a strain in his hamstring and Dinesh Karthik replaced him in the team while many expected Rishabh Pant to take up the job. Chopra said that that the youngsters in the team should have been given more chances while the veterans deserved rest. 

"If the selectors wanted to try out a few youngsters in the series against the WI, they should've rested some of the senior guys to accommodate youth. In theory, you can always do what Kohli did with Kuldeep (he played every game and Ravindra Jadeja-R Ashwin were rotated) but to expect the same done for Pant was ambitious, for the players needed to be rotated were only one-format players."

MSK Prasad, the chairman of selectors, in his recent interview promised every upcoming player a fair chance in a build up to the 2019 World Cup and Chopra beileves that it's time for the selection committee to practice what they preach.

"Since Jadeja-Ashwin play all three formats, it was relatively easier for them to be rotated but anyone who's playing only ODIs would consider the rest unfair. India have two full years to prepare for the 2019 World Cup and MSK Prasad, the chairman of selectors, has hinted that youngsters will be given chances leading up to the big event. The ODI leg of the tour to Sri Lanka would be a good time for the wise men to walk the talk."

Hardik Pandya has cemented his place in the team as a bowling all-rounder scalping six wickets while bowling his quota of 10 overs economically unlike the previous instances where he used to bowl just 7 to 8 overs. Young Kuldeep Yadav has been India's biggest find in the tournament and picked up 8 wickets in the ODI series bowling his wrist spinners perfectly.

Chopra hailed the commendable performances by the young duo while questioning Kuldeep Yadav's non-inclusion in the Champions Trophy squad.

"Hardik Pandya has started bowling his full quota of 10 overs regularly and that goes down as a big boost for the Indian team going ahead. Kohli's preference to play only five bowlers including Pandya puts a lot of emphasis on Pandya, the bowler. And his bowling has been both economical and incisive. Finally, something we didn't know in detail.

"Kuldeep Yadav was handed his ODI debut and he's made an immediate mark. He's been picking wickets throughout and in fact, made us ponder if he should've been in the playing XI during the Champions Trophy too. Another positive!" 

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