Not Just Rishabh Pant, Rest of Indian Team Also Needs Alteration

India’s squad announcement for the limited-overs series in Aus and NZ has raised many questions.

5 min read
Rishabh Pant has been dropped from the Indian one-day squad that will play Australia and New Zealand, putting in doubt his spot in the ICC World Cup squad.

We are just five months away from the World Cup and we have a game of musical chairs going on for a few slots in the Indian ODI squad.

It was earlier with regards to four slots and now it is down to two slots. The confusion and the muddle in the thinking is reflected in the way the ODI squads for the Australia/New Zealand tour has been chosen.

File photo of Rishabh Pant and MS Dhoni at an India practice session.
File photo of Rishabh Pant and MS Dhoni at an India practice session.
(Photo: AP)

Pant Paying For Test Form?

The first slot under question is that of the second wicket-keeper/batsman. Rishabh Pant has been left out of the ODI squads, but has been retained in the T20I squad. Pant’s exclusion is even more curious because he was always meant to be the second wicket-keeper/batsman in the 50-over squad. He was being groomed, or so we thought and were told in the last few months. At least that was the indication till India reached Australia.

Now, Pant has all but been ruled out of the World Cup.

Pant was involved in a race with experienced campaigner Dinesh Karthik to be the second wicket-keeper behind Mahendra Singh Dhoni. His exclusion indicates that the selectors and think-tank want to ensure that Pant learns from his poor shot-selection in Test match cricket. On the other hand, Karthik’s calm approach in the T20I series against Australia and West Indies showed the value of his presence in the XI. Pant on the other hand missed out on opportunities he got during the twin T20I series.

Now this is a flawed way of selecting your ODI and T20I squads because both formats are not complementing each other anymore. In fact, T20I cricket requires different kinds of skill sets, so if the selectors have once again committed this act then it is nothing but foolhardy to say the least.

Pant being dropped also indicates that glove-work was never the consideration in the selection of the second wicket-keeper!

The selectors have, however, tried to ‘manage’ the Pant question by bringing him back to India just to play for India A in a five-match ODI series against England Lions at Thiruvananthpuram in January 2019. It just indicates that Pant still figures in their plans majorly.

The fact that Pant is the youngest of the three other wicket-keepers – Parthiv Patel (in Tests), Dhoni and Karthik – currently featuring in any of the three formats for India means he is a long-term investment. Pant now needs to come good on the investment made in him and be a bit more responsible in his shot selection.

Not Just Rishabh Pant, Rest of Indian Team Also Needs Alteration
(Photo: AP)

Still a Dhoni-Karthik Show?

Dhoni had Karthik as a back-up 12 years ago during the 2007 World Cup too. Now in 2019 if we still have Karthik backing up Dhoni it indicates either we haven’t been able to groom an effective second line or it is a tribute to the longevity of the principal characters.

There is no doubt that Pant’s time in all formats as India’s premier wicket-keeper/batsman will begin right after the World Cup. This will happen more by default than by design. But six months away from the showpiece event, it shows a lot of muddle in the thinking of all those taking decisions in the Indian cricket ecosystem.

The T20I squad for New Zealand tour makes for an even more confused reading as Dhoni has been recalled. Just a month after writing his T20I career obit, Dhoni rises from the phoenix, primarily because he has chosen to be away from the game himself. He last featured for India in October and since then has been spotted at functions and on social media (like Shikhar Dhawan!).

No Back-Up Fast Bowler

The other big slot under question is the back-up fast bowler’s slot. Now in all the urgency to find solutions to the middle overs’ muddle with the bat and ball, India had forgotten that there is no back-up fast bowler.

While India spent a lot of time in the last three years throwing players at the deep end to solve the middle overs muddle, no thought was put into zeroing in on the fast bowlers. Middle-order with the ball looks to been settled for now with the wrist spinners in Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav manning the task along with Ravindra Jadeja.  The middle-order batting, with the return of Ambati Rayudu and Kedar Jadhav appears somewhat secure, but still retains the look of being unsettled.

Race for Pace

The fast bowlers’ slots are up for grabs even now and that is a shocking commentary on the thought process of those involved. Young paceman Khaleel Ahmed has risen through the ranks in the last few months, so now the fight is on for that one final slot. He has made a late entry into the ODI squad after having made the cut only during the Asia Cup. He has left all the contenders including the likes of Deepak Chahar, Siddharth Kaul and Shardul Thakur way behind in the race.

There is still room for one of the experienced Test spearheads in the line-up. Umesh Yadav was in the squad against West Indies and has now been discarded without as much as being given an opportunity to fail. In his place Mohammed Shami has made yet another return to the ODI squad. The fight for now for the fourth fast bowler’s slot therefore seems to have been narrowed down to Shami and Umesh. During the 2015 World Cup Shami and Umesh led the Indian attack, now four years on they are down to fighting for that one available slot! How times change!

Fight Unresolved

But this fight has been left for way too late in the day as these slots should have been zeroed in at least a year back.  With so many gaps to be filled in it does seem like the India’s World Cup squad has more gaps to fill and that makes the campaign tougher for Virat Kohli’s men.

India’s World Cup hopes for now hangs on a rampaging top three, Jasprit Bumrah’s yorkers and the wrist spin of Kuldeep Yadav. If any of these come a cropper on a bad day, then the wheels can come off the campaign for good!

So on the eve of the New Year pray a little more for good luck during the English summer for Kohli & Co.

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