Lack of Vision and Clarity in the Indian Team Selection for West Indies Series

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Lack of Vision and Clarity in the Indian Team Selection for West Indies Series
© Provided by News18 Lack of Vision and Clarity in the Indian Team Selection for West Indies Series

The West Indies are currently ranked No.8 in the ICC’s ODI rankings of the international teams. In T20I, their ranking is even lower (10th) and just a shade better than Zimbabwe among Test playing nations. These are perhaps enough to indicate that the two-time World Champions – both in ODIs and T20Is – are no longer the force to reckon with they once used to be. Even more significantly, winning a white ball series in India has been almost impossible for the teams from the Caribbean in nearly two decades.

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The last time when West Indies won an ODI series in India (2002-03 by a very tight margin of 4-3 which was otherwise a very competitive series) the senior pros of the current Indian team – Rohit Sharma, former captain Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan – had not even forayed into the domestic scene. And yet, Chief selector Chetan Sharma and his colleagues seems to have rated the threat from this West Indian side quite highly; hence that the reason they have been hesitant to experiment when they announced similar squads for both the white-ball formats.

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The thinking from the selectors again speaks of a defensive mindset. Especially, in the batting department, they are still dependent on the top three to win matches. Of course, the unexpected clean sweep to South Africa must have forced the selectors and team management on the back foot, but it still doesn’t make sense to go with the same tried and trusted triumvirate of top-order batting which has ironically been India’s biggest strength as well weakness in its white-ball cricket for over a decade.

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Of course, the option to rest the captain Rohit was never there. Dhawan can’t be given a break either after his prolific show in South Africa and the fact that he doesn’t feature either in Test or T20 format regularly.  So, the only batsman who could have been given much-needed break was Kohli, who, perhaps needs a break desperately at this point of time than anyone else from the current team for what he has been going through off the field for the last couple of months. That was the only possible window where the former captain could have been asked to take a break as he is unlikely to miss the Test series, and subsequently the T20 series against Sri Lanka which is slotted just before the IPL.

Had Kohli been rested for the T20I series, selectors could have retained the young opener Ruturaj Gaikwad in the team who was part of the squad for the tour of South Africa in white-ball format. Gaikwad is now only part of the ODI team. While it does bode well for Maharashtra opener, if he gets a chance, to get some confidence under his belt in the T20 format against West Indies. Like Gaikwad, Jharkhand’s wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan is also in the same boat, who has lost his ODI spot without even getting a chance in South Africa but has been retained in the T20I squad.

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All-rounder Hardik Pandya’s sustained fitness struggle in recent times seems to have compelled selectors to try out as many players as replacements and the entry of Pandya’s former Ranji team mate Deepak Hooda can be seen in that direction. However, the selectors once again seem to be tentative as they have picked Hooda for the ODI leg and not for T20 matches. Apparently, selectors have made-up their mind that Venkatesh Iyer is not yet ready for the 50-over format and must stick to the shortest format for the time being. The way Iyer has been discarded after just two matches in South Africa doesn’t speak volumes about the selectors’ approach. If they were wrong in getting carried away by Kolkata Knight Rider’s all-rounder’s performance in the IPL 2021, aren’t they doing same with Hooda who scored just 160 runs in 12 matches for Punjab Kings in IPL 2021 which included a solitary fifty?

The selectors may have been impressed by Hooda’s recent form ever since switched his base in first class cricket from Vadodara to Rajasthan where he was as the captain for the Vijay Hazare Trophy, a tournament in which he scored 198 in six matches – including a century against Karnataka. Hooda was part of the Indian squad for the last time in 2017-18, (but could not break into the final eleven) must be allowed to play all the matches without the fear of failure.

The comeback of Kuldeep Yadav is now being seen as India’s desperate need for wicket-takers in the middle overs. However, we must not forget that in the four ODIs the Uttar Pradesh spinner has played for India in 2021, he managed just two wickets and wasn’t economical either. The KKR spinner didn’t play a single match in IPL 2021 because he wasn’t fit, but prior to that also he wasn’t spectacular either (in IPL 2020 he had just a solitary wicket in five appearances). The 27-year-old hasn’t played any domestic cricket in the last six months, so selectors perhaps have just gone with his past reputation or has it been influenced by the fact that Kohli is no longer the captain?

One can argue that the inclusion of Ravi Bishnoi as a fresh talent who is being seen as an attacking wicket-taking option like Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, but there is no clarity on the future and status of mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy and Rahul Chahar who were part of the T20 World Cup team in 2021.

The strength of Indian cricket is such that any squad the selectors would have picked for a home series against a team like West Indies in any format, it was unlikely to see any kind of upset in terms of result. Yet, they have chosen to be conservative and tried to play it safe once more with their selections may perhaps explain why India’s template in white-ball format is has been found wanting recently.

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