On 21 September 2016, the BCCI picked a new five-member selection committee for the senior team, with former Test wicketkeeper MSK Prasad being chosen as its leader. The other four selectors chosen were Gagan Khoda, Jatin Paranjpe, Devang Gandhi and Sarandeep Singh.
The first thing every cricket fan noticed was that this was, by far, the least experienced selection committee in living memory, in terms of international experience. In fact, their experience at the international level is so little that collectively, they have played just 13 Tests and 31 one day matches.
Their first selection assignment was to pick India’s one-day team for the first 3 matches of the series vs New Zealand, on October 6, 2016.
This is the team they have selected:
MS Dhoni (capt), Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Manish Pandey, Suresh Raina, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Amit Mishra, Jasprit Bumrah, Dhawal Kulkarni, Umesh Yadav, Mandeep Singh, Kedar Jadhav.
8 batsmen, a wicket-keeper, 3 pacers and 3 spinners; one of each variety, which tells us that in theory, it is quite a well-balanced squad they have picked.
For a committee that is picking a squad for the first time, they have taken a few gambles, or let’s call them “brave decisions.” Three of the team’s best bowlers from the Test series have been rested, looking at their workload in this long home Test season that has 10 more matches. These are Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammad Shami.
The replacements? For the spinners, one may say that they have gone for like-for-like replacements and have picked Axar Patel for Jadeja and Jayant Yadav for Ashwin.
Among the batsmen too, since the selectors were handicapped up to an extent with two first-choice batsmen in KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan being unavailable due to injuries, they have gone for the likes of Mandeep Singh and Kedar Jadhav, besides recalling Suresh Raina in the middle order and trusting Hardik Pandya as the seam bowling all-rounder.
The pace attack is young and slightly inexperienced with Bumrah, Dhawal and Umesh picked as frontline pacers, as Bhuvneshwar and Ishant are injured and Shami has been rested.
Why it has to work for the selectors?
As stated very often ever since this committee was picked by the BCCI, its members are very inexperienced at the international level. While there is no denying that most of these five selectors have had stellar First Class careers, it must also be remembered that they have to pick teams to play at the highest level, which is where some people have raised concerns over whether they are the best men for the job.
But, as we all know, the only real measure of a selection committee’s success or failure is the performance of the team they have chosen. A selection committee might comprise of players with a huge amount of Test match experience under their belt, but if their selected team doesn’t deliver the goods on the park, it doesn’t matter how experienced they are as ex-cricketers.
The team the new committee has picked is their first selected team and its initial success would surely go a long way in upholding the faith that the fans have in them. In India, unlike most other cricketing nations, every aspect that relates to cricket is so closely followed and monitored by fans that they are mostly aware of who the members of the selection committee are, and their credentials as cricketers.
Hence, it is of utmost importance for the committee that their chosen team produces results right away. The batting lineup that they have chosen looks quite good, as is the case with almost any selected Indian team, but their gamble on resting senior bowlers despite a few other first choice picks being injured, and giving a chance to youngsters might backfire. They would, therefore, be hoping that the bowlers repay the faith that has been reposed in them.
Looking at India’s ODI results since the World Cup last year, it makes sense for the selectors to keep an eye on the future when they select the one-day team. It’s always said that in the 4-year circle between World Cups, as soon as one edition gets over, a team must start building for the next.
Going by this norm, since we are almost at the end of 2016, it’s about time the selectors start looking at a core group of players who will be in the squad when the team goes to England in 2019.
In fact, even before that, there is the Champions Trophy in England next year which might be the perfect dress rehearsal for the World Cup one and a half years later, and since there is not a lot of one-day cricket that India will be playing till then, the team for every series needs to be picked with one eye on the grand carnival.
In 2015-16, after the World Cup, Team India has played 5 ODI series:
|South Africa||India||South Africa||3-2|
As it can clearly be seen, the results have not been very encouraging. Barring two facile series wins against a hapless Zimbabwe side, India have lost the other three quite embarrassingly.
If we dig deeper into the results, we will see that the batting was mostly good barring two matches in the series against Bangladesh, but the bowling was quite pedestrian, especially in the series loss against Australia where the batsmen scored above 300 in all matches but one (and in that match, they scored in the 290s) but the bowlers couldn’t win it for the team.
There were positives as well, though, the notable ones being Manish Pandey and Jasprit Bumrah from the 4-1 debacle against Australia, and KL Rahul, courtesy his performances against Zimbabwe.
These upcoming one-day tournaments will be critical for these players as they look to establish themselves in the squad for the bigger assignments in 2017 and 2019, in order to complement regulars like Rohit, Rahane, Kohli, Ashwin, Jadeja and Shami.
We have seen how England have completely transformed themselves into a refurbished one-day unit after injecting their line-up with enforcers and one-day specialists like Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid, David Willey, Reece Topley and others.
The consistency with which they have piled up scores in excess of 350 and even 400, and their win/loss ratio that has seen a remarkable improvement clearly show that the one-day game is fast moving towards being a game of specialists, especially since the advent of T20 cricket.
This is where the new selection committee will do well to keep a watch on exciting upcoming talents who can do great things for the Indian one-day team in the next two years. The inclusion of players like Pandey, Pandya, Mandeep, Axar, Jayant and Bumrah is a heartening sign and tells us that the vision of the committee is indeed futuristic.
It’s only up to the players now to deliver and prove them right.