Selection committee has its work cut out for the West Indies tour

The selectors would follow the horses-for-courses policy when it comes picking the squad for the three formats. There is a possibility of a few players being rested either for the T20Is or ODIs.

After losing in the semifinal of the World Cup, Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri will be hoping for a good show in the Caribbean.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Selection of the Indian team for the tour of the Caribbean Islands always evokes feelings of nostalgia of the Ajit Wadekar-led Indian team’s historic first Test series win there in 1971, Sunil Gavaskar’s phenomenal collection of 774 runs, the remarkable spin bowling achievements of Bishen Bedi, S. Venkatraghavan, Erapalli Prasanna and Salim Durani’s game-changing dismissals of Clive Lloyd and Garfield Sobers in the second innings of the second Test at Port of Spain.

But it was the prelude to the tour that saw the chairman of the selection committee Vijay Merchant voting in favour of Wadekar as captain, when juxtaposed with Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, that sort of made Indian cricket shake like a leaf. Wadekar’s elevation as captain, the selection of Gavaskar for the tour were the highlights of the tour and Merchant felt vindicated about the choice he made much against the cricketing fraternity’s perception.

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Positive thinking

Merchant’s bold decisions and Gundappa Viswanath’s selection at the instance of Pataudi for the series against Australia in 1969 was acclaimed as a positive thinking on the part of the then selection committees and for the last five decades the Indian cricket fan has always expected the selectors to spring a surprise or two, when the time arrived to pick teams for an overseas tour.

The choice of a couple of players for the middle-order slots for the recently concluded ICC World Cup, raised a few eyebrows and, after India’s defeat against New Zealand in the semifinal, head coach Ravi Shastri rued the absence of proper No. 4 batsman.

Now it is time for a series in the West Indies that will start with a three-match T20I series, as many ODIs and followed by two Tests in Antigua and Jamaica.

The selection committee, led by M.S.K. Prasad, has been involved not only in picking the national team across all formats, but also the India-A team in all three formats.

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Nuanced opinion

And with the World Cup giving the panel an opportunity to make a nuanced opinion on some players, it would be ready to make a few changes after taking into account the fitness reports of Shikhar Dhawan (recovering from finger injury) and Vijay Shankar (toe injury). Prithvi Shaw has been laid low by a hip injury and he looks a doubtful starter for even the Test series.

Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Shubman Gill, Hanuma Vihari, Khaleel Ahmed, Navdeep Saini, Krunal Pandya, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Avesh Khan are all in action in the West Indies and are in the fray for the short format and one or two for the Test series. Also Mayank Agarwal, who was chosen as a replacement for the injured Shankar during the World Cup. A team led by Shreyas will play the three unofficial Tests against the West Indies-A.

Horses for courses

The selectors would follow the horses-for-courses policy when it comes picking the squad for the three formats. There is a possibility of a few players being rested either for the T20Is or ODIs. It has to be seen if the selectors would give one of the two wrist spinners, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, a break from international cricket.

Who will be the keeper?

With reports emerging that M.S. Dhoni would be working with the Territorial Army in the next two months, Rishabh Pant will be a straight-forward choice for all three formats. But it’s possible that the selectors will either go for Wriddhiman Saha or K.S. Bharat for the Test series as a reserve.

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