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The Indian selection conundrum 

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Feature
960   //    01 Oct 2018, 20:04 IST

India v Sri Lanka - ICC Champions Trophy
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma

28th September 2018, the Indian cricket team under the leadership of stand-in captain Rohit Sharma added another feather to their hat. It was the Asia Cup, their seventh title ever since the inception of the tournament in 1984. Sharma’s deputy Shikhar Dhawan, with two centuries in the tournament, was adjourned as the man of the series.

While the most decorated players of the tournament were still basking in the glory of their empathetic win, the Indian panel of selectors had some other plans. The Test squad for the home series against West Indies had to be chosen the very next day. Former Indian player and chief selector MSK Prasad who represented India in just six Tests and averaged 11.78 took some major decisions.

The captain and vice-captain of the Asia Cup who had amassed 317 and 342 runs in five innings were axed from the squad. There’s something more to it. Karun Nair, the only second Indian player to score a triple hundred after Virender Sehwag and who had been warming the bench for five Tests in England was nowhere in the list. Shardul Thakur, who failed to get a single game in England, also found himself in the list of axed players.

The axing of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan can still be considered valid at one point of time as their last outing in the red ball format had not been up to the mark. However, the curious case of Karun Nair and Shardul Thakur puts a new question altogether – What kind of merit does a player need to exhibit while warming the bench in a Test series? Is it net practice or throw-downs or the Yo-yo test? While in England, Shardul Thakur and Karun Nair must have eagerly waited to get their opportunities after every loss.

Probably, they had brighter ideas to survive in English conditions seeing their team’s glorified failures from one Test match to another. The only thing these players required was an opportunity but never stood a chance to get featured in the playing XI. And now to their horrors, they don’t even find themselves in the squad that would be playing a team like West Indies at home.

Virat Kohli who had opted to be out of the Asia Cup after citing workload management should have been an ideal candidate to sit out in the fifth Test against England. The last Test match was anyways a dead rubber which India still went on to lose by 118 runs. There is no rule which states that a captain has to play each and every match.

In the match against Afghanistan, Rohit Sharma rightly dumped himself along with Shikhar Dhawan to make room for KL Rahul and others. That’s like a team player who would want to give opportunities to other players before a crunch final. During the Asia Cup when Sourav Ganguly was asked, ‘what would be the one question you would like to ask the Indian coach?’ Ganguly candidly replied, ‘who selects the playing XI – Rohit or you?’

‘Bromance’ is what the journalists termed it to highlight the association of Ravi Shastri & Virat Kohli and their shrewd selection methodologies which is doing a lot of harm to Indian cricket. As we all witnessed the bromance couldn’t take place in the Asia Cup and Rohit Sharma not only emerged as a better player but also a better captain averaging more than 120. 

Once the Test team for West Indies was announced, many experts expressed their views and opinions. Harbhajan Singh, the veteran off-spinner slammed the selectors in his tweets, what are the selectors actually thinking? I can’t digest Rohit Sharma is not in the Test squad against the West Indies.’

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Call it ‘bromance,’ ‘high-handedness of captain & coach,’ or sheer ‘nepotism,’ at this moment the current talent pool of India is not in safe hands. The current selection committee led by MSK Prasad is demotivating the finest of players and this is not a good sign for Indian cricket. Lastly, BCCI must take an account of a very important thing when it comes to forming a selection committee.

It had been seen that the role of heading the selection committee is usually given to a former player. Before drafting anybody into that role, BCCI must look into their credentials as a player. A former player who was not meritorious enough to play more than six Tests and average 11 can’t be the right candidate to judge the merit of budding cricketers in our country.

Before it’s too late, BCCI must understand it’s not the team but our selection committee which needs to a change and probably with immediate effect. Till then let’s hope the balance and composition of our team don’t get lost somewhere before the World Cup. 

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