After days of high drama, when the national selectors met on Monday to pick the squad for the ICC Champions Trophy, there was no surprise in store. Playing it safe, the MSK Prasad-led committee decided to opt for the tried and tested names, rather than experimenting with newer talents.
While Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma were recalled to bolster the batting attack, there were talks on whether it was a wise decision to settle for the big names at a time when most of them were out of form. Be it skipper Virat Kohli, Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Ajinkya Rahane — none of them seem to be in great touch lately.
And that raises a serious question mark about the defending champion’s prospect in the tournament.
Also read: Comeback man Shami out to prove a point
However, former national selectors Roger Binny, Saba Karim and Raja Venkat believe that the selectors have picked the best side. Speaking to Sportstar on Monday, Karim makes it clear that the inclusion of Dhawan and Sharma would eventually help India sail through in the tournament. “It’s a very well balanced side. Shikhar and Rohit are in good touch and that would help the team,” Karim said.
But then, the left-handed opener Dhawan is going through a rough patch and has even been demoted to Grade C in the BCCI Central Contracts list due to his inconsistent form. However, he remains a key batsman for India in the limited overs format, with 3090 runs in 76 games.
On the other hand, Sharma, who has been brought in as substitute for the injured K. L. Rahul, has been pretty consistent in the Indian Premier League, and that may help the national team in the long run. Karim, however, makes it clear that only looking at T20 performances is not the right thing. “T20 can’t be the criteria for selection. In that format, you are always under pressure to perform. But it’s a different format in ODIs,” Karim, who has represented India in 34 ODIs and one Test, says.
If there’s not much of a worry with Sharma and Dhawan, things aren’t rosy with the top three — Dhoni, Rahane and Kohli.
Considered one of the most technically sound batsman of the team, Rahane has not been the best of performers in ODIs. Even in IPL 10, he has failed to impress.
It’s a similar story for Dhoni. Since April 2007, this is the first time that India will be participating in an ICC event without Dhoni as captain. And, coming into the side as a specialised stumper-batsman, Dhoni’s form has been under the scanner of late. But even chief selector Prasad admits that, with Dhoni, all that is not a factor. While he showed glimpses of his old brilliance with a match-winning knock of 61 for Rising Pune Supergiant against Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 10, things haven’t been that consistent.
Former selector Venkat, who has been vocal about Dhoni’s slump in form in the past, however, believes that both Rahane and Dhoni would shrug off the blues. “For cricketers of this stature, form is temporary, class is permanent. While Virat has been the most consistent player for a while, things have looked a bit tough, post his injury. But I am sure, he will bounce back,” Venkat says. The former selector from East Zone is also confident about Rahane turning it around for India. “He is one of the best you have. He can anchor the innings well. True, he has been off-colour lately, but he would come back strong,” Venkat says.
However, Venkat is a bit surprised to see Dhawan in the squad. “I was expecting Rishabh Pant or Sanju Samson in the side. That would have added some freshness,” he says.
Even though, Venkat is not worried about Kohli’s form, the India captain has struggled in the IPL. Under his leadership, the Royal Challengers Bangalore is reeling at the bottom of the table with 10 straight defeats. His batting has also been under criticism, with legends like Sunil Gavaskar asking him to look at the mirror.
Gavaskar’s team-mate in the 1983 World Cup winning team, Binny, doesn’t think that way. Though he agrees that it would be tough for the struggling batsmen to return strongly in English conditions, Binny says, with little effort Virat and his colleagues can get back to scoring runs. “Batting is okay. It is going to be a testing time, but then, form can return any time. Don’t go by the IPL,” he says. However, the former selector is a bit worried about the bowling attack. Even as the selectors have brought in Mohammed Shami into the attack, Binny says, it is going to be a test of character for the speedster. “Shami hasn’t played much cricket lately, so it remains to be seen how he tackles the situation. Ultimately, seam bowlers would be match-winners in England and not the spinners,” he says, adding that peaking at the right time would be the key to success.
While the former selectors find the squad a balanced one, the debates refuse to die down on social media. With Netizens slamming the selectors for ignoring the consistent Gautam Gambhir and Pant, things have heated up. But then, by keeping faith in off-form stars, the selectors have played a gamble, results of which would be out in the next five weeks. Till then, it’s all about the guesses!
- RCB vs UPW Live Score, WPL 2024: Healy departs early as Warriorz chase 158
- Sri Lanka T20 skipper Wanindu Hasaranga gets two-match ban for abusing umpire
- Pune Challenger 2024: Vacherot storms into final with a comeback win against Sweeny
- Indian sports wrap, February 24
- ISL 2023-24: Injury-hit Kerala Blasters hosts FC Goa as both teams look to regain winning touch