Well, the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind when we talk about MSK Prasad is the No.4 debacle but have we ever made an effort to look at what he has really done with the Indian team? In this week’s Truthful Tuesday, we are looking at it from a different lens - the correct one, perhaps!
MSK Prasad’s reign has been full of terror - sometimes for his bizarre decision-making, sometimes for the way he explains himself in press conferences. However, his influence on Indian cricket could be compared to some of the best in the World. Despite being home to a massive talent pool, India were never able to do well in the bowling department - in particular, the pace bowling department.
The 44-year-old was highly and heavily criticised for his decision-making on selecting India’s No.4, which again was not the worst decision in Indian cricket. Very easily we overlook some of the outstanding decisions that he has taken during the tenure which has made India the side they are today! Given that if you ask any country in the world right now, who they fear at home and away, the answer would be India. Often it is because of the batting tenacity, be it due to Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara or the talented Hanuma Vihari, but India have often been at the winning end many series.
However, more than the batting unit, it is the bowling unit which has taken the world by storm. Moreso, the bowling has also drawn comparisons between itself and some of the greatest bowling attacks in the past - be it Australia or West Indies. Such has been the influence of all these stars on the Indian team and the guy who is leading the side with the ball - Jasprit Bumrah.
Just like MSK Prasad’s appointment, fingers were raised at the bowlers’ experience, with some claiming that he was not ready for the biggest stage. That is exactly where both Bumrah and Prasad proved everyone, including the dear ‘Indian’ fans, wrong. Such is the unfair criticism in the country, where all that Prasad has done is next to miraculous. His reign was highly criticised, just like how Dhoni has been criticised for his post-World Cup break. But, just think about it for a moment, in both instances, the criticism is highly unfair.
This is where he was first attacked during his reign as Chief of Selector - with the masses claiming that he is not fit to be at the chair because of not playing enough Tests in India. Wait, so do Trevor Hohns and Ed Smith. Both of them are in the same boat as the Indian selector, not having made enough appearances for their respective national teams. Yet, both of them are successful at what they do - be it picking teams or taking bold decisions. So, it’s fairly stupid of people to criticise MSK for not having done anything wrong.
Every decision has its aftermath
Next thing would be his decision-making. During his tenure, he has taken some shrewd decisions - be it announcing that Rishabh Pant would be the future or the crazy episode of dropping Ambati Rayudu before the 2019 World Cup in England. But, to think of it, his choice was to give the Indian team the best combination at the end of the day.
Picking Vijay Shankar is definitely not the worst choice - given that he could offer a decent bowling option to the team. And, on top of that, he picked Dinesh Karthik ahead of Rishab Pant for which he was heavily trolled. But let us reason it out - India needed an experienced player with the glove in case Dhoni got injured. That is exactly why Karthik was picked and more so, the decision to play the Tamil Nadu man at No.4 and playing Dhoni below him in the semi-final was not MSK's fault. Yet, he became the scapegoat for all the decisions taken by the captain and the coach.
If India does have KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson all battle for that one spot - MSK Prasad is the reason behind it. Imagine a few years back, when Dilip Vengsarkar was highly criticised for picking a young Virat Kohli over the veteran Subramaniam Badrinath. Have we not seen what has happened over the course of time, trusting youngsters for the job?
His tenure’s legacy will go down for the ‘ammunition’ that the team has across all formats. It has been supported by the team’s performance across formats - with India being the No.1 ranked Test team in the World, the second-best in ODIs while still being in top four T20I rankings. The key to building such an ecosystem has been the result of the meticulous efforts from the Andhra man. To be honest, the way Indian ‘A’ team is performing should all go down to the way that MSK's selection committee took the decisions.
Be it finding as many two replacements for the injured Hardik Pandya or be it replacing Bhuvneshwar Kumar with such ease, both were achieved. While he was aided by the influx of generational talents, none would be exceptional if not for the timed selection. The major example is that of Karnataka’s Mayank Agarwal, with the right-hander having knocked the doors of selection since 2017. However, he was not picked for the Indian team directly, with the right-hander having to play for the ‘A’ teams and prove himself in foreign conditions.
And, after that, he was slotted straight into the playing XI and his performance sort of justifies it right? Same with Deepak Chahar in T20Is! After a successful season with the Chennai Super Kings, the right-arm seamer was called up to debut in England, where he conceded as many as 43 runs. However, despite that start, Chahar has gone from pillar-to-pillar, in becoming a top-bowler for the country. So much so that before his injury, he was touted as one of the only names sure of making it to Australia alongside Jasprit Bumrah in the bowling department.
“At times you might be right but on occasion you may go wrong as well. As selectors our job is to pick the best possible squad that can give you the best results,” MSK said.
“Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal are a few examples. They knew which series they may be needed for, which is why they weren’t overawed by the bigger stage. The ease with which Shaw got a ton on debut, the ease with which Agarwal made 75 on debut or the ease with which [Hanuma] Vihari batted in England. Barring one or two, whichever youngster has got in has been backed. For example, Shreyas Iyer. He didn’t have the best of A tours, but we kept backing him and now you see the results,” he added.
Well, to be really honest, India has not had a rightful heir to the No.4 position for some time. Last time, in the 2015 World Cup, it was Suresh Raina who batted at No.4. However, since then, Shreyas Iyer, Yuvraj Singh, Ambati Rayudu, Vijay Shankar and Rishabh Pant have all called the position theirs. But, only one of them has called it ‘home,’ which is Iyer, who has been given a long-rope by the selectors, owing to the promise that he showed on the domestic circuit.
So much so, it was because of the confidence that the management gave which converted Iyer from being another generational talent to a successful batsman in world cricket. India have at least eight-nine players in the shed at every position, be it batsman or bowlers. Well, for all the criticisms that MSK Prasad has got, his tenure and his selection suggest a different treatment. So before you criticize him from the next time, remember, he has transformed Indian cricket, both from a team’s performance and fan’s expectations.
Remember, the majority of players in the Indian dressing room in limited-overs made their debut under MSK Prasad. On top of that, he is the first to get blamed for and the last to get praised. So, Indian fans, figure yourself out with your hatred for the man who has only played 23 games for the national team.