Tag Archives: Team Selection

Teams for NZ Tour

The Indian cricket selectors have, I think, done well to pick good/strong teams for Indias’ tour of New Zealand. Some selection highlights for me are:

  • Continuing to invest in Ravindra Jadeja — he gets a gig in the T20 team.
  • Investing in Dhawal Kulkarni.
  • Re-investing in Lakshmipathy Balaji.
  • Continuing to invest in M. Vijay in the Test team.

The teams are

Test squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, M Vijay, Amit Mishra, L Balaji, Dhawal Kulkarni, Dinesh Karthik (wk)

ODI squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Dinesh Karthik (wk)

Twenty20 squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Dinesh Karthik (wk)

Is there a TN-bias to the selection?

The presence of L. Balaji is seen by many as TN-bias on the part of Kris Srikkanth, the Chief Selector. That would be unfortunate as well as unnecessary, although somewhat understandable. The Test team has provided passage for three TN players in the form of M. Vijay (ahead of possibilities such as Wasim Jaffer, Aakash Chopra, Ajinkya Rahane, Robin Uthappa), L. Balaji (ahead of Pankaj Singh, Ashok Dinda, Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar) and Dinesh Karthik (ahead of Parthiv Patel).

However, Vijay did shine in the one Test opportunity he got and must be persevered with, in my view. One can feel sorry for Ajinkya Rahane. He was the 2nd highest scorer in the Ranji season (with an aggregate of 1089 runs @ and avg of 68.06 that included 4 centuries). He has had a stunning domestic season and is, along with Cheteshwar Pujara, one to watch for the future.

Dinesh Karthik has had a stunning year with the bat and has pipped Parthiv Patel at the post. The Gujarat ‘keeper has done nothing wrong and must just continue to put in the hard-yards in the domestic circuit. Dinesh Karthik has done everything right. He was the 10th highest scorer in the Ranjis with an aggregate of 634 (3 centuries) and an average of 63.4 runs. Having said that, Parthiv Patel wasn’t really too far behind (with 526 runs in aggregate, @ 47.81, including 1 century). But when the cards fell, Dinesh Karthik just had the right number on his side. He was also the highest scorer in the Duleep Trophy with two centuries in three Duleep Trophy games for South Zone. The fact that Karthik had opened well in England may have also counted in his favour. Both Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel are very young. Karthik is only 23. Both of them will have hurt badly from the experience in Sri Lanka. Karthik played badly in the first two Test matches. He batted poorly and his ‘keeping also fell apart. However, Parthiv Patel, who played in the 3rd Test fared worse! So, both of them needed a strong domestic season, lest upstarts like Wriddhiman Saha usurp their position. Both of them did put in a good showing. However, when the cards fell, Karthik had the numbers.

L. Balaji has been, in my view, somewhat lucky. Yes, he was the 4th highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Season and also had a good Duleep Trophy outing. Given that the highest wicket-taker was already rewarded with a ticket to New Zealand (Kulkarni) and given that 2 and 3 on the pecking order were spinners (Ravindra Jadeja and the now-banned Mohnish Parmar!), his ticket could have been seen as reward for a good showing. My own view is that he need not have been rushed into the Test arena. Its just been a year since his comeback from injury. His first major step on the big stage was the IPL. Since then, he has, no doubt, been bowling well. But to get him straight back into the Test side may have been a bit too much.

But then, these are the rewards of a good showing in the domestic circuit. The current selectors seem to be rewarding strong domestic showing quite consistently — set in the context of long-term team-development — and for that, they do deserve some credit.

Bits-and-pieces players:

I have been saying for sometime now that players like Abhiskek Nayar, Yusuf Pathan and Ravindra Jadeja are the future of India’s ODI and T20 mix. It is good that these guys are getting a clutch of games at the highest level to prove their mettle. The press in India tags them with the moniker “bits and pieces players”. This is erroneous. It is also a disrespect to the quality that these guys bring to the table in the T20 and ODI arena. They are not “bits and pieces players”. They are clever players who bat and bowl well! I’d like to see opportunities given to players like Abhishek Nayar and Rajat Bhatia in the near future too.

Experimentation

M. S. Dhoni has shown the way in handling players like Ravindra Jadeja, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina in recent ODI games. In the final ODI against Sri Lanka, I felt he took it a wee-bit too far by bowling as many as 9 bowlers in the game! That’s a bit much. But you need those kinds of options in the middle overs. Even though the pitches may not turn much in New Zealand, I think the middle-overs bowled by Virender Sehwag, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma will be quite crucial.

From that point of view, it is good to see the selectors invest strongly in Jadeja. Yes, he is not part of the ODI Team. After the two T20 games at the start of the series, Jadeja makes way for Sachin Tendulkar. That is fair enough!

I think the selectors will only drop Tendulkar from the ODI scene when he himself says that he has had enough! I suspect he won’t say that until after the next World Cup. He seems to want that silverware in his cabinet more than anything else! Given that he has served Indian cricket in the manner that he has, one could afford him that luxury, I think!

What we have seen in recent T20 games and ODIs is that Dhoni is really his own man when it comes to executing batting plans, setting the batting order and exploring bowling options. In a recent interview, he said that this was because he wanted each player to experience different roles in order to have an appreciation for what a #3 needs to do and what a #6 needs to do in different match situations.

In a perverse manner, this is exactly what Guru Greg Chappell tried to instil in the team when he was at the helm! The difference was that Guru Greg, instead of just doing it, wanted to preach his ideology, convert everyone to his way of thinking, convince everyone that he was right and then hail him as a messiah and a saviour! He started the “process is more important than the outcome” mantra. He was subsequently lambasted and lampooned in the media for “experimenting” too much! The word “experimentation” was taboo during his reign. Guru Greg choked on his own mantra and was caught in the headlights, with nowhere to go.

Instead of aspiring to be a messiah and a saviour, Dhoni just does it and lets others write about his method! The outcome is a more flexible Team India! Ironically, Guru Greg’s method survives after he has been buried!

Possible Teams:

The T20 and ODI teams select themselves:
Possible Twenty20 squad: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar
Subs: Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Rohit Sharma

I’d take Praveen Kumar ahead of Ishant Sharma and would take Ravindra Jadeja ahead of Rohit Sharma. But these are possibly the only two debatable spots in my view. There are questions being asked about Pragyan Ojha’s selection in the T20 and ODI teams, given that pitches are unlikely to offer too much spin in New Zealand. However, from a team-development point of view, I think this is a good move. Ojha did bowl really well in recent ODIs. He should be part of the team mix and should get a gig, in my view.

Possible ODI squad: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar.
Subs: Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Rohit Sharma,

I’d take Praveen Kumar ahead of Irfan Pathan. And I’d take Raina ahead of Rohit Sharma. Who knows? With a lot of cricket around the corner, should India go ahead in the series — as it did in Sri Lanka — it would be an opportunity to play Pragyan Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Irfan Pathan and Dinesh Karthik instead of (respectively) Harbhajan Singh, Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan and M. S. Dhoni.

Possible Test squad: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel
Subs: M Vijay, Amit Mishra, L Balaji, Dhawal Kulkarni, Dinesh Karthik (wk)

The Test team is the one that selects itself most emphatically. There can’t be too many doubts or questions in the composition of this team. It is unlikely that the team will go with more than 4 main bowlers (with Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Tendulkar as other possible bowlers to relieve the strike bowlers). The only question, in my view, is whether Munaf Patel gets the gig ahead of Dhawal Kulkarni. I’d go for experience ahead of raw pace for the first Test. Moreover, Munaf Patel does seem to have the ability to swing the ball more in conditions that are likely to be presented in countries like NZ, South Africa and England. So, he might get the nod ahead of Kulkarni. But it may not be a bad idea to give Kulkarni a go in one of the Test matches.

The selectors have continued to invest in Rahul Dravid — as they should — in spite of his poor showing in the Duleep Trophy finals. Having said that, I am not sure they would be as patient with him after yet another poor tour. They have also sent a clear signal to Yuvraj Singh that he is in the mix for a long stint in the Test middle order. This should settle him down and should allow him to cash in on this opportunity.

Overall, this has been a good selection effort by the selectors.

— Mohan

Team India’s IPL gains…

The IPL tournament has certainly thrown up a few names that could be in contention when Team India’s selectors sit down to pick the Team India ODI teams for Bangladesh and for the Asia Cup. These teams will be chosen on 30 May.

From the team that won in Australia when India last played a ODI — Harbhajan Singh will certainly not feature! He has had a ban slapped on him (pun totally intentional!).

Virender Sehwag feels that it would be fine for the young turks that have done well in the IPL to be considered for Team India ODI selection on the basis of their good IPL-showing. However, Dilip Vengsarkar, the Chairman of selectors is not one for making large-scale changes.

Having said that, it would be impossible to ignore the number of young cricketers that have put their hands up — some more compellingly than others!

The Indian ODI squad that won in Australia included: MS Dhoni, Piyush Chawla, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina, Virender Sehwag, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Sreesanth, Sachin Tendulkar, Manoj Tiwary, Robin Uthappa, Yuvraj Singh, RP Singh

Of these, apart from Dinesh Kartik and Manoj Tiwary, who have not set the IPL on fire, and Harbhajan Singh, who is not available for selection, not many have gone “backwards” in terms of their chances. Although Dinesh Kartik did win a game for Delhi Daredevils, one probably felt that he had blown a few chances to make an impression along the way. Munaf Patel has had an outing that could best be described as Munafesque! Praveen Kumar has also not had a fantastic IPL. However, I do not think he would be dropped.

On the other hand, players like Piyush Chawla, Gautam Gambhir, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Sreesanth, Robin Uthappa and RP Singh would have appeared to have strengthened their cases.

So, it would seem to me that the following will be retained:
Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Suresh Raina, Sreesanth, RP Singh

That gives us a listof 14 players. I am assuming that Zaheer Khan is not considered. It may help India’s chances if he –like Rahul Dravid, V. V. S. Laxman and Sourav Ganguly — is asked to focus his energies on Test cricket!

Assuming that the selectors may select 2 more to add to the above list, the impressive bench could well boast

Yusuf Pathan
Shikar Dhawan
Yo Mahesh
Pragyan Ojha
P. Vijaykumar
Ashok Dinda
Manpreet Gony
Abhishek Nayar

Of these, I have been most impressed with Manpreet Gony and Yusuf Pathan and would possibly get my nod ahead of anyone else.

So, my Team India ODI team would be:
Sachin Tendulkar
Virender Sehwag
Gautam Gambhir / Robin Uthappa / Suresh Raina
Rohit Sharma
Yuvraj Singh
MS Dhoni
Irfan Pathan / Yusuf Pathan
Piyush Chawla
Praveen Kumar / Manpreet Gony
Ishant Sharma
Sreesanth / RP Singh

— Mohan

Why not a foreign selector too?

I started writing this as a comment in response to Mohan’s post about the need to replace Vengsarkar with Kiran More, but ended up making a full fledged post. More had his moments, but IMHO there is no merit in going back to him.

Vengsarkar did start well, but lately has been erratic in his selections and comments. However unhappy we may be with the way the selection committee is performing now, the reality of the matter is that the selectors will not be replaced.

But here is an idea from left field – why not have a foreign chief selector? The idea may sound a bit strange, but is not completely new. Remember that Rodney Marsh was once a selector for England. If we can have an overseas coach, why not have an overseas selector as well. At least,  an overseas selector will not be swayed by regional politics. Why not even bring in Greg Chappell ;)?

The idea may or may not have merit, but the fact of the matter is that we will have to wait till Vengsarkar finishes his term before any change occurs…

-Mahesh-

India retain same side for remaining two ODIs

The Indian selectors, in a strange move, have retained the same team that lost horribly to Australia in the 5th ODI at Vadodhra!

I find this totally strange. At the start of the series, in the context of players like Virender Sehwag the selectors talked of a “rotation polocy”. Perhaps they were talking about their brains being fried and rotated inside out?

With India being 1-3 down in a ‘home series’ with only 2 matches to go in this series, here was an opportunity to have a different throw of the dice! That India is playing against a formidable opponent is well-known. Not many Indian fans would have expected India to win this series. Few would have expected them to win 2 or 3 matches in the series. But, in the wake of the T20 World Chamipionship win, most India fans would have wanted the team to put up a good showing. They were, however, thrashed in Kochi, Hyderabad and yesterday, in Vadodhra. In the only game of the series that India has won so far, Australia was in total control of the game for perhaps 97 of the 100 overs bowled!

So, somewhere the rails have fallen off this train. And, while it is known that the BCCIs’ disorganised state leaves the team without a coach, it is useful to ponder over the contributions made by the selectors in all of this mess.

They have chosen a team that is not too different in structure and composition to the team that fared badly in England.

It would require some bravery on their part to change things around. And in my view, a dramatic re-think was required — a re-think of the type that they carried out for the T20 team-composition.

The starting premise is that this team requires more allrounders. It also needed fresh legs. At the moment, there aren’t too many of either variety around. So, with all to play for and nothing to lose in this series, my feeling is that the selectors ought to have to gambled with an eye to the future.

While Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly should form part of the team-mix for India in future ODIs (and of course in the Tests), I would have thought that it was right for the selectors to let them free, at least for the rest of this series.

But no. They have gone for the same team and more beatings have been ordered!

The team is:

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Yuvraj Singh, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Dinesh Kartik, S Badrinath, Robin Uttappa, Irfan Pathan, R P Singh, Rohit Sharma, Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan, S Sreesanth, Harbhajan Singh.

— Mohan

Team India for 5th ODI @ Vadodhra

India is often loathe to change a winning combination unless real (or make-believe) injury forces their hand. However, I have a feeling that a change or two may be necessary to the India team that beat Australia in Chandigarh.

Option-1: Rest Zaheer Khan for Sreesanth

Despite a tight last over in the Chandigarh match, Zaheer Khan has not been bowling as sharply as he can. Even though we should acknowledge that he is bowling at Hayden and Gilchrist — both champion players — he has looked off-colour. Moreover, with Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Irfan Pathan the bowling has a “sameness” look to it. With that in mind, it may not be a bad idea to bring in Sreesanth for Zaheer Khan.

Option-2: Rest Dravid for Badrinath or Rohit Sharma

The Vadodhra pitch is known to be a turner. An additional off-spinner in the form of Badrinath, would be a useful option to go with. Of Rohit Sharma and Bardrinath, I’d go for the latter because his off-spin is generally quite sound — perhaps more sound than the options Rohit Sharma provides with his bowling. This option may gain more credibility in light of the fact that Dravid hasn’t really looked in great touch in this series thus far.

Option-3: Combine option-1 and option-2

This would be my preferred team for this all-important match. Apart from strenghthening the bowling, this option would also strengthen the fielding! However, I do not believe Team India will go with this. It is most likely that the same winning-team will play this match too. But if I had my druthers I’d go with the following team:

Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain), Robin Uthappa, S. Badrinath, MS Dhoni (captain), Irfan Pathan, Murali Kartik, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, RP Singh.

Substitutes: Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Rahul Dravid, Zaheer Khan.

— Mohan

Selectors must invest in youth…

The Twenty20 World Championship win by M. S. Dhoni’s Men in Blue has provided a much-needed breath of fresh air for Indian cricket. After the disappointment of the early and embarassing exit from the World Cup 2007 this was what Indian cricket needed. And it was secured by a fearless captain who does things his way. It was secured by a young team that played in the spirit of its captain. And this, I believe, is the blueprint for future success for India. The team has to dismantle the shackles — some self-imposed, some imposed by the ‘system’ that the team is part of and some imposed by history — and play with self-belief and mental stregth.

And this investment in the future has to commence now.

The selectors have named a 15-member squad for the ODIs against Australia which reads (in possible batting order):

Sachin Tendulkar
Sourav Ganguly
Robin Uthappa / Gautam Gambhir / Dinesh Karthik
Rahul Dravid
Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain)
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt)
Irfan Pathan
Piyush Chawla
Ramesh Powar / Harbhajan Singh
RP Singh / Sreesanth
Zaheer Khan

Two things need to happen immediately, in my view.

First Piyush Chawla, who is injured, needs to be replaced. I would be very surprised if this replacememt is not Joginder Sharma.

Second, as a significant policy-shift the selectors need to, from now on, name 17-member teams for ODIs and further stipulate that only a maximum 2 of the seniors can play in any game! First, this would prolong the careers of the Tendulkar-Ganguly-Dravid troika. Second, it would also provide a platform for youngsters to express themselves.

M. S. Dhoni, when asked about the absence of the Big-3 in an interview that I read earlier on, made two important statements I thought. Firsty he said that it was important for his wards to get the appreciation of the seniors back home. And he has received that with Sourav Ganguly immediately recognising and applauding the teams’ efforts. But he also dealt with the issue of their absense with poise when he said, “I am sure if they had been here, they would have taken us to the final. If we do win the final, they can say that they couldn’t have done more than what his team has done. The way we have performed has been amazing.

With the above suggested changes to the ODI team to play Australia, I’d like to see the following team chosen (along with the rider that only 1 or 2 of Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid can play any game):

Sachin Tendulkar / Vierender Sehwag
Sourav Ganguly / Gautam Gambhir
Robin Uthappa / Dinesh Karthik
Rahul Dravid / Rohit Sharma
Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain)
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt)
Irfan Pathan
Joginder Sharma
Ramesh Powar / Harbhajan Singh
RP Singh / Sreesanth
Zaheer Khan

From the India team that won the Twenty20 World Championship, Ajit Agarkar, Piyush Chawla and Yusuf Pathan would, therefore not be chosen. Ajit Agrakar needs to decide which side of the bed he wants to get up — if he does! Piyush Chawla is injured and Yusuf Pathan would be, in my view, unlucky to miss out.

The first India-Australia ODI match is in Bangalore on Friday 29th September at 2.30pm IST (7pm Australia time).

Bring it on…

— Mohan

Team for ODIs and Twenty20

The Indian selectors have announced the ODI squad for the 7 ODIs against England and the Twenty20 squad for the T20 World Cup.

There are no real surprises in the ODI squad. Munaf Patel comes in for Sree Santh in the ODI squad which has a reasonable look to it although the continued presence of Gautam Gambhir is somewhat puzzling. It must be me for I don’t really see what his role or his point is in the team. The selectors obviously rate him highly! One suspects that it is going to be a long road for the likes of Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan to make it back into the India ODI fold. Rohit Sharma, who did not set the world on fire in his first few outings, gets another go at this level.

The ODI team in possible batting order is:
Sachin Tendulkar
Sourav Ganguly
Robin Uthappa / Gautam Gambhir
Rahul Dravid (capt)
Yuvraj Singh
Dinesh Karthik / Rohit Sharma
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Ramesh Powar / Piyush Chawla
Ajit Agarkar
Zaheer Khan
Munaf Patel / RP Singh

The Twenty20 squad is interesting, to say the least. It certainly has a few raised-eyebrow issues.

It is captained by M. S. Dhoni and includes Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, et al. This should make for an interesting dressing-room dynamic for the young Dhoni.

Gautam Gambhir squeezes into the T20 squad too! And I continue to shake my head at this choice.

The surprise package is that Sree Santh finds a place in the T20 squad! I can’t figure this one out at all.

The squad, as one might have expected, boasts bits-and-pieces players like Yusuf Pathan and Joginder Sharma.

The team appears to be light on batting talent. I am surprised Manoj Tiwary did not make the cut.

And the big surprise is the ommision of Zaheer Khan from the T20 squad. Explain that to me please? The team has only 3 pace bowlers — discounting Irfan Pathan who is on his way to hitting some bowling form.

The T20 squad in possible batting order is:
Virender Sehwag
Robin Uthappa
Gautam Gambhir
Yuvraj Singh
Dinesh Karthik / Rohit Sharma
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt)
Irfan Pathan / Joginder Sharma
Yusuf Pathan / Piyush Chawla / Harbhajan Singh
Ajit Agarkar
RP Singh
Sree Santh

— Mohan