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MSK Prasad reveals why Pant and Kuldeep weren't picked, defends Dhoni's selection

Prasad divulged that while Kuldeep Yadav "narrowly" missed out, Rishab Pant was being groomed for the future.

Virat Kohli would be leading the 15-man squad, as India set out to defend their Champions Trophy title

India have announced a 15-man squad for the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy after much hullabaloo and uncertainties over the team’s participation in the tournament. While several consistent performers and big names were retained in the squad, there were some cricketers who, it was felt in popular opinion, missed out on playing the ICC tournament.

Rishab Pant, Kuldeep Yadav, Gautam Gambhir, and Suresh Raina are the names that spring to mind immediately, and during the press conference, where the chairman of selectors, MSK Prasad, announced the squad, it was only obvious that questions were raised regarding a few noticeable omissions from the side.

Pant has been in good touch this season, and his whirlwind innings of 97 off 43 against the Gujarat Lions while chasing a target of 209 had caught the world’s attention. He was also the fourth-highest run-scorer in the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy, amassing 972 runs from 8 games at a strike-rate of 107.28.

“We are completely impressed with Rishabh Pant. But he missed out because of squad combination. We will groom him for the future,” Prasad said when asked about Pant’s omission.

Kuldeep Yadav, who made it to the Test squad for the series against Australia, and who has been performing well in the IPL as well, would have hoped to get picked in the squad. That wasn’t to be either, and Prasad had reasons for it.

The ones who nearly missed out

When questioned about whether or not Yadav’s name was discussed during the selection panel meeting, Prasad responded in the affirmative. 

After looking at the squad, which has Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja as the two spinners, one would feel that one of these established spinners were picked ahead of Yadav, given that they have been playing for the team for a considerable amount of time and have been proven match winners.

However, Ashwin hasn’t played much white-ball cricket over the course of the past year or so, and hence his selection in the squad did raise a few eyebrows.

Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin has played only 5 ODIs since Januray 2016

“Ashwin's selection was not a difficult decision. He's had rest, isn't out of form. That was our way of preparing him (Ashwin) for the Champions Trophy,” said Prasad, when asked about Ashwin’s lack of match practice owing to his omissions from the team and him not completing his quota of 10 overs on a consistent basis.

It must be reminded that barring the last ODI series that India played – against England in January – Ashwin hadn’t featured in many ODIs for India since his injury during the ODIs against South Africa in 2015. He was rested for the five-match ODI series against New Zealand in October.

The 30-year-old had played just 2 ODIs in 2016 – against Australia – and 3 in 2017 so far, and hence looks to be quite underprepared. Therefore it was speculated that India might go in with a third spinner and Yadav was the prime contendor for that spot.

“Yes, he (Kuldeep Yadav) was. Because of the quality of Kuldeep, we have considered him and not because of the form of Ashwin,” Prasad said when asked whether Yadav’s name was discusssed owing to Ashwin’s lack of match pracrtice and his recent form.

“It's not one person's suggestion, the selectors have a taken a (collective) call.”

Prasad was quick to follow this by saying that Yadav had “missed out narrowly.”

Rishab Pant, despite his noticeable performances in the IPL, couldn’t find a place in the squad

That the team has been announced in the midst of a running IPL season demanded questions on whether a player deserves to be picked for the ODI team based on good IPL performances. There have been several noticeable young performers this season as well, including Rishab Pant, Basil Thampi and Ishan Kishan, and one of them were expected to be blooded into the Indian team.

“When we consider for a 50 over tournament, we want to consider all round performances. IPL is a wonderful platform. From here, we will bring them (Pant, Thampy, etc) into the radar and groom them,” the chief selector said when asked about the preference that the IPL performances are given while picking an ODI side.

The Dhoni conundrum

While Virat Kohli has been fairly successful so far in his stint as the captain of the limited-overs team. However, that hasn’t taken the glares off MS Dhoni, who has already been facing flak from all corners owing to his inconsistent run with the bat in the IPL.

Prasad, though, had supreme confidence in Dhoni’s abilities and reminded everyone of the fact that Dhoni is still one of the best wicketkeepers in the world. He divulged that Dhoni mustn’t be viewed as a pure batsman, but as a wicketkeeper too.

“We all believe that he is still the best wicketkeeper in the world. He is invaluable to the team in terms of inputs. He is the best person to guide Virat.

“In the past 10+ years that I have seen when he has played for India, he has never had a bad day as far as gloves are concerned. The phenomenal performance he puts in behind the wicket, nobody looks at that.” 

Here’s India’s 15-man squad for the ICC Champions Trophy: Virat Kohli (C), Rohit, Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami.

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