The Indian squads for the forthcoming limited overs series in Zimbabwe and Test series in West Indies were announced at the Cricket Centre in Mumbai on Monday afternoon. The selection committee comprising of Sandeep Patil (Chairman of selectors), Vikram Rathour (North Zone), Saba Karim (East Zone), M.S.K Prasad (South Zone) and Gagan Khoda (Central Zone) got together to discuss the names of the potential candidates who would board the flights to Zimbabwe for 3 ODIs and 3 T20Is and later for a 4-match Test series in the Caribbean islands.The squad for the tour of Zimbabwe (beginning on June 11) in particular raised a few eyebrows with the exclusion of consistent domestic performers like ShreyasIyer, Robin Uthappa and ShahbazNadeem. The selectors instead decided to accord higher priority to players who have chipped in with decent performances in the shorter formats at the domestic level.
As many as six new names including Faiz Fazal, Karun Nair, Jayant Yadav, Mandeep Singh, KL Rahul and Yuzvendra Chahal have been drafted into the Indian limited-overs squad for the first time. The remainder of the slots in the 16-man squad were filled by the usual suspects who will be led by M.S Dhoni. The likes of Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, AmbatiRayudu, KedarJadhav, JaydevUnadkat and KL Rahul have made it to the national team on the back of some stellar performances in the domestic circuit over the past few months.
Quite a few senior pros such as ViratKohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravichandran Ashwin were not incorporated into the squad since it was speculated that they were likely to be rested. However, Sandeep Patil offered a different opinion on the matter. ‘’No one has been rested. No one wrote to BCCI or called us to inform that they were not available or they should be rested. It was the decision of the selection committee to pick a young side for Zimbabwe’’, said 59-year old Patil while announcing the squads alongside BCCI’s newly appointed secretary Ajay Shirke. He further added, ‘’Ashish Nehra is ruled out because he is undergoing surgery for his hamstring injury, Murali Vijay was not fit for the Zimbabwe tour due to a niggle. The report which we have got from Patrick Farhat (the team physio) says that Kohli needs rest after the IPL for his hand injury’’.
The 12-day long series commencing with a 50-over game at the Harare Sporting Club will open the doors for a lot of these youngsters who could make a strong case if they are able to embrace the given opportunities with open arms. Consider Faiz Fazal’s example. The 30-year old left handed opener from Vidarbha has earned his maiden call-up into the national team; courtesy of a string of consistent scores in the recently concluded domestic season. Fazal notched up a ton (127) in the Irani Cup for Rest of India against Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai which piloted his side to its 26th title chasing a colossal target of 480. Left unsold at the IPL auction in February, Fazal is currently busy brushing up on his skills in league cricket in England. ‘’I have expected calls before but it ended in disappointment. I realized performing is better than expecting and thought if it is going to happen, it will happen surely. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure that the selections are happening today’’, said the former Rajasthan Royal recruit in an interview to Wisden India yesterday. Surprisingly, Faizal was supposed to represent India at the 2004 Under-19 World Cup but an injury forced him to pull out of the tournament following which he was swapped for the eventual player of the series, Shikhar Dhawan.
Jayant Yadav is another uncapped player whose inclusion has drawn interest from different sections of the media. A steady performer in the domestic circuit, Yadav impressed one and all by claiming 33 wickets in the 2014/15 edition of the Ranji Trophy.Besides bowling conventional off-spin, the 26-year old Haryana all-rounder is a sober batsman as well. In a First Class career spanning just 26 matches, he already has two centuries to his name including a 211 which he scored against Karnataka a couple of seasons ago.He could turn out to be a vital cog in the Indian wheel on the sluggish Zimbabwean tracks where Amit Mishra scalped 18 wickets from 5 games in 2013. In RavichandranAshwin’s absence, Yadav is likely to be inducted into the playing XI on the tour.
Karun Nair and Mandeep Singh have been knocking on the selectors’ doors for a long time and it is only a matter of time before they make their breakthroughs. 24-year old Mandeep finished as the highest run getter in the 2015/16 Vijay Hazare Trophy where he amassed 394 runs at a healthy average of 65 and a strike rate of nearly 90. Mandeep who has played just one game for RCB this season has secured a place in the ODI squad owing to his consistent showings in domestic cricket.The same can be said about Karun Nair. One of the most prolific batsmen in the Indian domestic circuit of late, Nair has emerged as one of the mainstays of the Karnataka batting line-up since making his debut three years ago where he scored three consecutive Ranji Trophy centuries on a trot which played an instrumental part in Karnataka’s title triumph. He shot to prominence a year later when he struck an outstanding 328 against Tamil Nadu in the 2014/15 Ranji Trophy final. Having made his IPL debut for the now defunct Rajasthan Royals in 2013, Nair was pickedby Delhi Daredevils at the IPL auction earlier this year for whom he has scored 357 runs from 14 games at a splendid average of 35.70 and a strike rate of 120.20 this season. His unbeaten 83 runs which propelled his side to a victory against Sunrisers Hyderabad caught the eyes of the selectors because of which he finds his name in the team list today.
The sole leg-spinner in the squad, Haryana’s Yuzvendra Chahal will be entrusted with the task of extracting sharp turn from the slothful Zimbabwean surfaces. One of the most trusted combatants of Captain Kohli at RCB, Chahal is currently the leading wicket taker in the on-going IPL with 19 scalps to his credit. He had an equally impressive List A season with 25 wickets from as many games (BBI 6/24) in 2015/16. Despite staying under the shadow of Amit Mishra in the Haryana side for a considerable amount of time, 25-year old Chahal finds himself confronted with a favourable situation as he is on the verge of being awarded with the long awaited Indian cap.
Apart from these five newcomers, Karnataka’s KL Rahul has earned his maiden call-up into the limited overs team. Rahul, who has displayed remarkable efficacy in red-ball cricket for India having recorded tons in Australia and Sri Lanka over the last 18 months, boasts of a reasonably good List-A record with 1067 runs from 28 matches at a wonderful average of 41.83. A player who has invited ample accolades from several former cricketers for his sound technique in recent years, Rahul has exhibited plenty of improvised shots in the IPL this season besides playing the orthodox ones. One of RCB’s unsung heroes who has been instrumental in guiding the team to the playoffs, the 24-year old wicket-keeper batsman has accumulated 386 runs from 12 IPL games at a fine average of 32.45 this season. Pigeonholed as a top order batsman, Rahul’s newfound ability to bat at any position in the batting line-up has contributed to RCB’s resurgence big time in the billion-dollar league so far. There is room for improvement on the wicket-keeping front though. Sharing the dressing room with Dhoni on the forthcoming tour might come in handy for the Karnataka youngster.
The likes of Manish Pandey, KedarJadhav, Axar Patel, JaydevUnadkat and AmbatiRayudu find themselves in the thick of things at the international level yet again. While Pandey has virtually cemented his place in the limited-overs set up after scripting his maiden ODI ton in Sydney in January, Jadhav was unlucky to be left out of the Indian team, in spite of scoring his maiden ODI hundred in Harare last year.
Axar Patel has had a topsy-turvy run at the international level but his form in the domestic circuit and the IPL this season has encouraged the selectors to select him ahead of another left-arm spinner ShahbazNadeem for the upcoming series against Hamilton Masakadza’s men. Patel’s hat-trick against Gujarat Lions in Rajkot has been one of the highlights of the Indian Premier League so far. Saurashtra’s premier left arm seamerUnadkatpicked up 45 wickets in the 2015/16 First Class season which consists of 4 five-wicket hauls. That said, he has been a let-down for KolkataKnight Riders in IPL 9, having conceded 49 runs from 3 overs in the solitary game he played against Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium on 28th April, 2016. Ambati Rayudu has also succeeded in staging a comeback into the Indian team- thanks to his sublime form for Mumbai Indians in the current edition of the IPL. The right handed middle order batsman from Baroda slammed 334 runs from 13 games before his team’s campaign came to a halt.
Despite being in the fringes of selection for a fairly long time, Robin Uthappa misses out on yet another international tour. His tally of 383 runs from 14 IPL games this season has failed to entice the ‘five wise men’ of Indian cricket to consider his name for a spot in the squad. His KKR teammate Yusuf Pathan, who is the recipient of 3 ‘Man of the Match’ awards in the IPL this season has also not secured a place in the limited-overs team despite notching up 359 runs from 14 games at an enviable average of 89.75 (which is the second highest average among batsmen who have played over 10 innings) with 3 fifty plus scores.
What the selection meeting has done is it has indicated the fact that Suresh Raina and GautamGambhir have fallen off the selectors’ radar.
Following is the full schedule for the away series against Zimbabwe.
|11th June, 2016||1st ODI, Harare Sports Club|
|13thJune, 2016||2nd ODI, Harare Sports Club|
|15thJune, 2016||3rd ODI, Harare Sports Club|
|18thJune, 2016||1st T20I, Harare Sports Club|
|20thJune, 2016||2nd T20I, Harare Sports Club|
|22nd June, 2016||3rd T20I, Harare Sports Club|
The squad for the Test series against West Indies hasn’t accounted for any surprise selection. The ViratKohli led Indian contingent will play 4 Test matches in the Caribbean islands in July-August. Mohammad Shami, who didn’t any international game since getting injured during the tri-series involving Australia, India and England last year has returned to the side. The latest entrant into the Test team is Mumbai’s right arm medium pacer Shardul Thakur whose illustrious display in First Class cricket over the past 24 months has turned the tide in his favour. In the 2014/15 season of the Ranji Trophy, the Palghar lad scalped 48 wickets in 10 matches and finished as the second highest wicket taker of the tournament behind Karnataka skipper Vinay Kumar. His run of good form continued the following season as he finished with 41 wickets to help Mumbai clinch its 41stRanji Trophy title. Barring these two seamers, thelikes of Murali Vijay, ShikharDhawan, CheteshwarPujara, AjinkyaRahane, RavichandranAshwin, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma and UmeshYadav were automatic choices.
WriddhimanSaha has managed to cling to the wicket-keeper’s slot despite facing stiff competition from NamanOjha who has been piling up a lot of runs and exhibiting tidy work behind the stumps of late. Amit Mishra too has been rewarded with a deserved place in the side.Karnataka’s Stuart Binny has been preferred to Himachal Pradesh’s Rishi Dhawanfor the seam-bowling all-rounder’s slot. The 32-year old right handed batsman cum right arm seamer amassed just 102 runs and scalped 11 wickets in Karnataka’s dismal Ranji Trophy campaign last season.
For the Zimbabwe Tour- M.S Dhoni (Captain) (wicket-keeper), KL Rahul, FaizFazal, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, AmbatiRayudu, Rishi Dhawan, Axar Patel, JayantYadav, DhawalKulkarni, JaspritBumrah, BarinderSran, Mandeep Singh, KedarJadhav, JaydevUnadkat and YuzvendraChahal.
For the Test series in West Indies- Virat Kohli (Captain), Murali Vijay, ShikharDhawan, CheteshwarPujara, Rohit Sharma, AjinkyaRahane, WriddhimanSaha (wicket-keeper),KL Rahul, RavichandranAshwin, RavindraJadeja, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, UmeshYadav, Shardul Thakur and Stuart Binny.
(Stats compiled by Rajesh Khilare)