Ex-Chief Selector Sandeep Patil Analyses India’s World Cup Squad
MSK Prasad and co made a good selection, there were no major surprises, writes former India cricketer Sandeep Patil.
The 15-member Indian cricket team for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 was announced on 15 April, and while MSK Prasad and company made a good selection, there were no major surprises, and certainly no lotteries either.
For several months, there had been talks doing the rounds, lots of speculation made, and different team combinations drawn and discussed on many news channels and newspapers. Every cricket fan in the country also seemed to be concerned about what the World Cup squad was going to be.
For the past year, selectors and the Indian team management along with Indian captain Virat Kohli, had been trying to finalise the squad by experimenting with many players under different situations and roles. Over time, we saw flexibility in India’s batting and bowling order, but ultimately it boiled down to a couple of slots for which there were many contenders.
Rahane, Pujara, Ashwin Deserved Chances Too
I was no different; there were two changes in the final squad from the one that I had predicted for the World Cup. And so was the case of many others like me, who were a bit surprised when final squad was announced.
I really feel sad for players like Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravichandran Ashwin who have been our torch-bearers in Test cricket. Unfortunately, these three greats of Indian cricket were completely sidelined during the months preceding the selection.
I think they certainly deserved the chances that others got while the experimenting was on. These players were labelled 'Test players’. And why this label was stuck on their back, only the team management can explain.
The World Cup does not come every year, one has to wait for four years. There is not a single cricketer in the world who does not want to represent his country in cricket’s pinnacle tournament.
According to me, the contenders who got a chance to prove their worth were:
- Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw for the opening slot
- Ambati Rayudu, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Shubman Gill, Ajinkya Rahane in the middle order
- spinner Axar Patel
- Rishabh Pant as wicketkeeper-batsman
- Umesh Yadav, Khaleel Ahmed and Navdeep Saini as medium pacers
However, the final nod was given to the tried and tested.
I Admire Vijay Shankar’s Spirit
In the race that began four years back, the cricketers that have came out on top are Dinesh Karthik and Vijay Shankar.
I am happy to see Vijay Shankar’s name because I had noticed his skills five years back during a match against Baroda at the Moti Bagh ground. I was so impressed that I had strongly recommended his name for the India A side, but it was his sheer bad luck that injury kept him away for that entire season.
I really admire his spirit and the way he fought back since then, because with so many options available it was not easy for anyone to seal a spot in the World cup squad.
On the other hand, Rishabh Pant certainly looked like a strong contender, especially after he was upgraded in BCCI’s central contract, and then given preference over Dinesh Karthik in the absence of MS Dhoni for the ODI series in Australia, where he ended up performing well.
But when it comes to selecting a wicket keeper, then batting skills are secondary. And that’s where Dinesh Karthik trumped Pant.
I have seen Dinesh from his India A days which go way back to 2004, when I had recommended his name over MS Dhoni’s as the team’s coach. Mind you, the selectors had then picked both Karthik and Dhoni.
Karthik boasts of a brilliant run in the domestic tournaments, and I really appreciate the determination that has seen make him make many comebacks, the latest one being the biggest.
Though we will miss Pant as a left-handed batsman as we have only have one in the form of Shikhar Dhawan in the top order, the combination looks good. And I am most happy to see nine players who are regular bowlers and have done extremely well in the ODIs. Now that we have the 15, who are going to be part of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, I can only say let’s bring back the happy memories of 1983 and 2011.
I wish them all the best.
(Sandeep Patil is a former Indian cricketer, Indian national age group cricket manager and former Kenya national team coach.)
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