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ARE THE SELECTORS PLAYING THE GAME OF

MUSICAL CHAIRS IN THE INDIAN T20 AND ODI

SQUADS?

26.12.2018  Author: C.NAMASIVAYAM

The Indian squad for T20I series against New Zealand and for the ODI series against Australia and New Zealand have been announced. On a plain reading of the squad, one would get the feeling that the selectors have once again played the game of musical chairs by moving, shuffling and rearranging the players from one position to another. By shuffling the players around, the selectors have made an attempt to figure out who would take over for whom.

Changes in the T20 squad

Players in: - M.S. Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, and Hardik Pandya

Players out: - Manish Pandey, Washington Sundar, Shreyas Iyer, and Umesh Yadav

The anomalies of the T20I squad are listed below:

The peculiar case of M.S. Dhoni

MS Dhoni was dropped for the T20I series against the West Indies and Australia. Now he is back again in the squad as the third wicket-keeper after Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik. 

When Dhoni was first dropped from the T20I squad against the West Indies, it was a bolt from the blue for all his fans like me. The reason attributed to his omission was to pave the way for youngsters to stake their claim in the shortest version of the game. If that was the case, what exactly has transpired between then and now which necessitated the return of Dhoni into the T20I squad?

When Dhoni was first dropped from the T20I squad, the general consensus was that Dhoni had played his last innings for India in T20I. If the selectors had any intention of going back to Dhoni, they should not have dropped him in the first place. In Dhoni’s absence, his alternatives Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant have done reasonably well to retain their places in the squad. 

Dinesh Karthik scored a match-winning 31 not out against West Indies at Kolkata. Against Australia at Sydney, Karthik added 60 runs with Virat Kohli in 6 overs to win that game and level the series. In between, he scored 30 off 13 balls at Brisbane which very nearly won the game for India. In Dhoni’s absence, Rishabh Pant made 58 against the West Indies at Chennai and along with Shikhar Dhawan saw India through. In this scenario, what is the requisite to bring back Dhoni?. Again, having selected Dhoni in the squad as the designated wicket-keeper, he should be in the playing XI at the cost of either Dinesh Karthik or Rishabh Pant. Besides, selecting 3 wicket-keepers in the squad is one too many. This would affect the balance of the squad and the player who is accommodated in the team purely as a batsman will feel the pressure to perform.

Though no Indian fan in his right frame of mind would condemn Dhoni, his return defies logic. Perhaps during the West Indies and Australia series, Kohli might have missed Dhoni’s towering presence behind the wicket and his cricket acumen in demanding situations. If that is the case, it further emphasizes the fact that Dhoni should not have been dropped in the first place.

The surprise retention of K.L Rahul and the exclusion of Shreyas Iyer

After his century against England in Manchester, K.L. Rahul has scored only 111 runs in 7 innings. With Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli firmly set at the top 3 batting positions, the usefulness of K.L. Rahul in the middle-order is limited. With the return of Kedar Jadhav in the squad who can roll his arm around, K.L. Rahul’s position is more vulnerable now.

​As against K.L. Rahul, Shreyas Iyer was in the squad for both the West Indies and Australia series but didn’t get a chance to play. Now he finds himself out of the team due to no fault of his.

The surprise retention of K.L Rahul and the exclusion of Shreyas Iyer

Umesh Yadav’s case was somewhat better. After being in the team for the first T20I against the West Indies, he was ignored for the rest of the matches against the West Indies and Australia. Now he is not in the squad for the New Zealand tour. Perhaps this might be to accommodate all-rounder Hardik Pandya on his return from injury. 

​Hardik Pandya’s return would definitely perk up the team balance.

As far as Kedar Jadhav’s inclusion is concerned, he is a match-winner and should have been in the T20 squad much earlier. The only concern with Jadhav is his fitness levels.

The selectors are justified in dropping Manish Pandey after his repeated failures. Similarly, the exclusion of Washington Sundar is understandable since having 4 spinners in the squad on New Zealand wickets is a luxury. 

To sum up, if the selectors believe in using the T20 matches, where the stake is less, as an experimental ground to assess the talent of the youngsters, they should not go back to experienced players. Conversely, if the selectors decide to choose the best playing XI, then they should not drop the experienced player in the first place. The lack of clarity and consistency in selection criteria wouldn’t help the team’s cause.

Changes in the one day squad

Players in: - Dinesh Karthik, Mohammad Shami, and Hardik Pandya

Players out: - Rishabh Pant, Umesh Yadav and Manish Pandey

The anomalies

The dropping of Rishabh Pant

Rishabh Pant was selected ahead of Dinesh Karthik for the West Indies series. He made his ODI debut in the series as a specialist batsman. When Pant was selected for the West Indies series, the signs from the selectors was that he would be the under-study to Dhoni going into the World Cup. But now he is suddenly dropped and is likely to be out of India’s scheme of things for the World Cup.

Dinesh Karthik’s case was similar to that of Dhoni. After scoring 147 runs in the Asia Cup at an average of 49, Karthik should not have been dropped in the first place for the West Indies series. But he was unexpectedly dropped then and picked now. This leaves both Karthik and Pant’s position uncertain for the World Cup.

The selection of Mohammad Shami ahead of Umesh Yadav

​Both Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav played the first 2 ODIs against the West Indies. Both leaked plenty of runs in the two matches that they played. However, Shami managed to claim 3 wickets as against Umesh’s lonely wicket. Their wayward bowling in the second ODI against the West Indies cost India the match. This forced the selectors to recall Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah for the last 3 ODIs.

When everyone expected the selectors to drop Umesh Yadav to accommodate Bhuvi and Bumrah, they chose to drop Shami and retain Umesh Yadav for the last 3 ODIs. However, Umesh didn’t get a chance to play in the last 3 ODIs. Now for Australia and New Zealand ODI series, Umesh Yadav has been dropped and Mohammad Shami is back. Perhaps, in this case, the selectors might have gone on current form.

Apart from the above changes, the return of Hardik Pandya after an injury lay-off and the exclusion of under-performing Manish Pandey to accommodate Pandya were on expected lines.

To conclude, the constant chopping and changing don’t help the team’s cause and the individual players confidence with the World Cup just 5 months away. Moreover, it breaks the continuity and the rhythm of the player. It is always nice to have a like-for-like replacement from a pool of 20 top players. But alternating between one option to another endlessly would do no good. With the World Cup fast approaching, it is high time the selectors and the team management settle into a stable team composition.