Vimal Kumar ∙ Jan 2 2023, 9:00 AM

OneCricket Team selection dilemma: Decisions that baffled everyone

image-lcejq695It has not been the best years for Team India [Source: Associated Press]

Doubtless, 2022 has been one of the most disappointing years for Indian cricket team (Men’s). They squandered a historic opportunity in South Africa at the beginning of the year when they lost the Test series by 2-1 despite taking 1-0 lead. 

India ended the year with somehow miraculously saving the ignominy of a Test defeat in Bangladesh. In between, they lost the ODI series in South Africa (in 2018 they had beaten the host for the first time and beaten them comprehensively!), failed to win the 5th Test (solitary on England tour) at Edgbaston. 

If failing to qualify for the Asia Cup final was seen as a minor hiccup then they once gain lived up to the widely expected fear of losing another World Cup knock out game (lost in the Semi-final of T20 WC) and of course the recently lost ODI series in Bangladesh once again confirmed that there are so many issues with this Indian cricket team, especially in white ball cricket.  

In this backdrop, the interim selection committee which selected the T20 and ODI squads against Sri Lanka has many messages for the players. Of course, no explanations were offered by the selectors on omissions and selection so we all are free to derive our own conclusions.

The most important question remains unanswered is that the formidable trio of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul may have played their last game in T20 format for India? Or is it too early to make any conclusion because this is an ODI World Cup year and they may have been asked to solely focus on ODIs and the T20 call can be taken later.?

Or is it that the great Indian tradition of not communication with the senior players directly on tough subjects and just let it indicate to them subtly that their time is up.?

Another very significant and debatable points was the absence of Rishabh Pant from both the squads. Pant was the vice-captain in T20Is in New Zealand. Similarly, his Delhi senior Shikhar Dhawan is out of ODIs and he was the captain in the last series. 

By the time, the Pant haters on social media could spread the ‘dropped’ news like wildfire, the Pant lovers got the reassurance in the form of a ‘source based’ news that Pant has some niggle issues and he has been asked to report to the NCA in Bengaluru and not dropped. 

Unfortunately, things have nosedived for the keeper-batter as the unfortunate accident will put his cricket on a break for some while now.

The truth as often perhaps lies between the two extremes in Indian cricket. However, it must be not forgotten that Pant is a special talent and must be handled sensibly. The Delhi keeper already has six scores of over 90 and if you include one unbeaten 89 in his short Test career then he may have missed 7 Test tons by touching distances. 

However, the year 2022 has been a stranger one for him. He has nearly 700 runs in red-ball cricket with an average around 70 but is uncertain of his future in white ball cricket! The new selection committee’s biggest task is how to manage the likes of Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson and Pant in three formats – all of three some exceptional talents as wicketkeeper-batsman.

Of course, Chetan Sharma is no Vijay Merchant (who sacked Tiger Pataudi in 1971) but by demoting KL Rahul from vice-captaincy duties and elevating Hardik Pandya to this role says that finally the selectors were forced to make this decision even if it is a touch belated. 

Rahul still is in ODI squad as finisher cum wicketkeeper and rightly so because of his recent performances. However, nobody knows if the new selection committee in the new year will be as liberal and accommodative with him. 

 Just contrast Rahul’s numbers in red-ball ball with Dhawan’s. The Delhi opener after 34 Tests averages around 41 while Rahul who is close to 50 Test is still averages around 35. 

There is no doubt that era of Rohit-Dhawan-Kohli is getting over and Dhawan as expected is the first one to fade out slowly. From 2017 to 2019, Dhawan (8), Kohli (17), and Rohit (18) scored 43 ODI centuries together for India and if you contrast this from 2020 to 2022, only Rohit has managed a solitary ton from the formidable triumvirate.

And, it's not just Dhawan alone among seniors who have been left out without a word being spoken by the selectors. The likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, R Ashwin and Dinesh Karthik too may have faded in the same way from the white ball cricket. 

Also Read: OneCricket's ODI Team of the Year: The best in business!