ICC Champions Trophy: Why India should have made left-field selections
Come June 4 and defending champions India will kick off their campaign in the ICC Champions Trophy with a much-awaited clash with arch-rivals Pakistan at Edgbaston. The team will face competition from Sri Lanka and South Africa too for securing a semi-final berth from Group B.
The 15 men entrusted with India’s defence of the crown that they won in England four years ago are all known figures in the international circuit. In selecting these time-tested campaigners, the selectors have played it safe, hoping they deliver the goods once again.
However, such is the nature of the modern day cricket that a team needs some surprise packages as well. Since opponents spend a great deal of time analysing strengths and weaknesses of each and every player, throwing in a hitherto unknown or a relatively new face often ends up invalidating the rival team’s plans.
Also read: Performance analysis of the Indian squad
So, would it not have been nice if the selectors had opted for left-field selections and included in Team India some of the lesser experienced yet talented players? Here we dissect some of the ways in which these possible selections would have proved advantageous for Team India.
The power of the unknown
There have been a number of occasions when a lesser known player changed the course of the game for his team. Take for instance, the final of 2007 ICC T-20 Championship. Nobody outside India would have heard of a certain Joginder Sharma and yet Dhoni brought him to defend 13 runs in the final over of Pakistan’s innings. The rest is history as the Haryana all-rounder dismissed Pakistani skipper Misbah-Ul-Haq to seal the victory for his team.
Another case of a left-field selection working wonders for Team India took place in the fourth and final Test of this year’s Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Dharamshala. Going into the decider with both sides locked at 1-1, Australia had spent much of their time preparing to neutralise the Jadeja-Ashwin combo.
However, by picking young Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav in place of injured Virat Kohli, the home team caught the visitors off guard. The rookie tweaker turned the game on its head by claiming four Aussie wickets on the first day as India went on to win the Test and series.
India had the opportunity to use Kuldeep as a mystery weapon in the upcoming Champions Trophy once again. What makes this Uttar Pradesh lad special is he has mastered a very rare art in cricket- left arm unorthodox spin or what is popularly known as Chinaman. Since there are only a few Chinaman bowlers in world cricket, most of the batsmen are not accustomed to playing this style of bowling. Kuldeep would have been able to use this less familiar side of his bowling to his advantage and fox opposition batsmen.
The middle order cover
Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav batted at No. four, five and six respectively during India’s last ODI series against England. The troika was in great form throughout the course of the series and played a stellar role in the home side’s victory.
In England, though, conditions would be different and considering Yuvraj has a history of struggling against swing, it would not have been unwise to pick a couple of inexperienced but technically solid batsmen.
The two names that immediately popped up as backup options were Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson. Both Pant and Samson were in terrific form in the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL). While Pant slammed 366 runs with a staggering strike rate of 165.61, Samson aggregated 386 runs from 14 matches at a healthy strike rate of 141.39.
The youngsters also showcased icy-cool temperament and ability to bat for a longer period. Pant’s 43-ball 97 against Gujarat Lions in Delhi Daredevils’ epic run chase of 215 was one of the innings of the tournament, whereas Samson became the first and only player to have hit a century in this year’s annual T20 extravaganza.
If picked, the players had the potential and technique to succeed in the challenging conditions of England.
Krunal for Jadeja
Ravindra Jadeja no doubt emerged as India’s player of the home season in the longest form of the game, but he has not done anything extraordinary in away matches. Also, he had an ordinary IPL where he went for plenty of runs. Taking this into consideration, Krunal Pandya would have proved a more than useful selection in his place.
Pandya was a key player for Mumbai Indians (MI) in the IPL as he bowled tight spells and scored handy runs down the order when the chips were down. His innings of 47 in the final lifted MI from a precarious 79 for 7 to a competitive 129/8, which proved one run too many for Rising Pune Supergiant in the end.
Considering his form of late, he could have provided good depth to Kohli’s side with his accurate left arm spin and power hitting down the order.
Some of the names discussed above (Pant, Kuldeep) are on the standby list for the Champions Trophy. Who knows that at some stage, one or even two of them may be required to serve the team and make a mark? For now, it’s time to put an end to this hypothetical selection discussion and hope that the team chosen is good enough to retain the coveted title.Published 27 May 2017, 10:25 IST