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The surprising inclusion of Pawan Negi and non-inclusion of Irfan Pathan: What does it mean?

A look at the inclusion of Pawan Negi.

Pawan Negi in action 

A day after India defeated Australia in their own backyard, the side to take on Sri Lanka in a three-match series, starting next Tuesday in Pune, was picked by the 5 wise men of Indian cricket. 

Virat Kohli was given a break from the game, and I think this is good decision, despite the fact that it would halt the incredible form that the right-hander has been Down Under, as it would give him some time to relax before he leads the country’s charge with the bat at the Asia Cup and at the World T20.

Barring that, most of the members that were a part of the T20 series were retained, however, the inclusion of one player in the squad did catch a few by surprise.

Delhi left-arm spinner Pawan Negi was included for the three matches ahead of Axar Patel, who had travelled with the team for the ODIs in Australia,  to provide a back-up for Ravindra Jadeja and it is surely an interesting selection, for a few reasons.

Number 1: Is the extra spinner needed?  

In the T20s against Australia, we saw the likes of Nehra and Bumrah get carted during the early part of the innings only for the slower bowlers to come and halt the scoring rate. Both Jadeja and Ashwin did a commendable job in all the 3 matches and if Dhoni does need an extra spinner, he always has a Suresh Raina, from whom he could get an over or two.

Plus, if both fail badly, wouldn’t Harbhajan Singh be the back-up to come into the team?  The 35-year-old certainly looked good in the matches against South Africa at home and to pick Negi ahead of him would perhaps not be the right way to go.

Number 2: What wrong has Amit Mishra done?

When he first burst onto the scene in 2003, Amit Mishra made an immediate impression on everybody with his leg-spin and googly , but unfortunately, after a good start, he found himself out of contention due to India’s preference for Anil Kumble and Harbhajan and made his Test debut 5 years later when the former was injured.

Despite the world speaking about how much an attack gets bolstered by the presence of a leg-spinner, the Indian selectors have simply not shown the kind of confidence that they should on the Haryana cricketer, who has always put in an honest effort whenever given the opportunity.

During Ashwin’s absence in the limited-overs series against South Africa, the 32-year-old proved to be very effective, varying his speed and maintaining a tight hold over proceedings along with picking up the odd wicket.

While the selection committee in recent times have made some out-of-the-box selections like including a relatively unknown Barinder Sran in the tour to Australia, the non-inclusion of such players (Mishra took 8 wickets at the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament while Negi doesn’t feature anywhere in the list) ahead of those who have done well in recent times doesn’t quite send the right message across.

Where is Pathan’s reward?

The likes of Hardik Pandya made the cut to the tour of Australia on the back of some strong performances on the domestic circuit and recovered well in the second T20I at Melbourne after having a tough time at Adelaide.

Pandya was effective with both bat and ball for Baroda at the Syed Mushtaq Ali, scoring  377 runs and taking 10 wickets to help them enter the finals. However, his teammate Irfan Pathan also didn’t have too bad a tournament.

The 31-year-old scored 200 runs with the bat but more importantly, finished as the highest wicket-taker in the competition with 17 scalps in 10 matches at an average of 15.76.

With Umesh Yadav being woeful in Australia and deservingly getting the axe, wouldn’t it been the right call to give Pathan an opportunity to prove his mettle again?

India’s balance in their ODI leg of their tour to Australia just didn’t look alright but with the inclusion of a few allrounders for the T20Is, it seemed as though the combination had been figured out.

In that case, the selection of someone like Pathan could have given Dhoni some more depth in the fast bowling department. 

The series against Sri Lanka will provide everybody maybe one final glimpse of who will be part of the World T20 squad and hopefully, India will have all their questions answered by the end of the three matches.

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