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Takeaways from India’s squad announcement ft. Saini’s unjust omission and the never-ending Rahul rope

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KL Rahul's continued selection raises a few questions

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Takeaways from India’s squad announcement ft. Saini’s unjust omission and the never-ending Rahul rope

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Anirudh Suresh

05/08/2021

The 2021 edition of the IPL got suspended abruptly, but the BCCI ensured to keep the fans busy by announcing a 20-man squad for the World Test Championship Final and the five Tests against England. The obvious ones aside, we delve into the interesting Talking Points from the squad announcement.

Why have the selectors moved on from Navdeep Saini already?

From being the country’s biggest x-factor 8 months ago to now having found himself out of favour in all three formats, Navdeep Saini’s fall from grace has been staggering. But in the longest format at least, the India management’s treatment of the speedster has been extremely harsh. One full Test was all Saini played in the Australia tour and in that, he did more than enough to suggest that he could be a lethal weapon with the old nut. 

In the first innings of the Sydney Test he reversed the ball exquisitely and brought India back into the game by dismissing Pucovski, and in the second he bowled a hostile spell - that removed both Labuschagne and Wade - which prevented Australia from batting India out of the game. The consistency was undeniably missing, but Saini did the job that was asked of him, which was to take wickets against the run of play.

Bowling with a dukes ball on green English wickets might not be Saini’s cup of tea, but the selectors’ decision to not even include him as a reserve, and, worse, replace him with Prasidh Krishna is indeed baffling. Prasidh, with his height and pace, will undoubtedly be a handy enforcer, but he has done little in red-ball cricket to justify selection over Saini. 9 first-class games is all the 25-year-old has played across six years and his showing in both the IPL and the England ODIs proved that he still is far from being a finished product and is, at this point in time, a very green entity that blows hot and cold. 

Saini’s omission raises further questions about the management’s handling of fringe players. Can a person be deemed ‘not good enough’ to even be in the reserves on the back of one game? BCCI certainly did think so!!

KL Rahul’s selection continues to belie logic - how is he ahead of Prithvi Shaw in the pecking order?

KL Rahul - the Test cricketer - at times, feels like a Game of Thrones character with the strongest plot armour. For it seems that, no matter what he does, he simply cannot be ousted. Ever. Nothing, it seems, can stop the Indian selectors from picking Rahul in Tests - not the fact that he hasn’t played red-ball cricket in a year, or the fact that he averaged 29.90 in his last tour of England or the fact that he’s averaged 22.23 across his last 15 Tests. ‘Talent’ and ‘potential’ are all that matter. That is okay if the same yardstick is being used for all players, but the fact that Prithvi Shaw has not even made the reserves suggests that the selectors are guilty of having an unhealthy, inherent bias towards Rahul. 

For in no world should Rahul be making the Test squad ahead of Shaw. That Shaw failed and was exposed in Australia cannot be denied, but it was only a Test before the Australia tour the youngster struck a nonchalant fifty on a green top in Christchurch. He failed twice, rather embarrassingly, in Adelaide, yes, but Shaw has to fail at least a dozen more times across different conditions against inferior attacks to match the blip of Rahul, who across the last two years of his Test career was conveniently the worst opening batsman in the world. 

Claims that Rahul has been picked as a ‘back-up wicket-keeper’ are also nothing but excuses to justify his unjust selection. Rahul has not kept wickets in first-class cricket in the past half a decade and, furthermore, there is no logic in selecting a temporary wicket-keeper as a third keeper in a country like England which, due to the conditions and the swervy nature of the dukes ball, is considered hell to keep in. 

The selectors have overlooked Hardik Pandya because of their trust in Shardul Thakur

It is too early to speculate whether Hardik Pandya is done as a Test cricketer, but if he is not going to make the cut for England, there are not many other countries in which he’ll be considered. But fitness aside, there is another major factor that has convinced the selectors to leave Pandya behind, and that is the skillset of Shardul Thakur, who could very well have a key part to play in the six Tests. 

The absence of a pace bowling all-rounder in the 20-man squad baffled many, but, by the looks of it, it does seem that the management are laying their trust in Shardul to take up the role. Given he is predominantly a swing bowler, the English conditions will favour the Mumbaikar, but what could catapult him into the scheme of things is his batting. ‘Shardulkar’ displayed his skills with the bat at the Gabba with a power-packed 67, but the right-hander, post that, has shown that he is no flash in the pan. Shardul averaged 57.00 in the 2020/21 Vijay Hazare Trophy, and also played handy cameos in both the ODIs and T20Is versus England. 

Perhaps given the fact that Hardik averaged a mere 23.42 the last time he toured England, the selectors feel confident that Shardul can not just match Pandya junior but quite potentially outdo the 27-year-old, given he is anyway a superior bowler. 

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