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India's Champions Trophy selection

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Selection_cricket_India_squadNot long ago, there were doubts about India’s participation in the Champions Trophy after the BCCI was overwhelmingly outvoted by the other ICC members on the new constitution, governance changes and financial model that were approved in the ICC Board meetings in April.

BCCI was unhappy with a lower share of revenue. With the disputes going on, there were clouds on India’s participation, as they missed the 25th April deadline to submit the squads. But in a late turn of events, BCCI announced the Indian squad for the Champions Trophy to be held in England.

Post the Special General Meeting held in Delhi on May 7, the fate of the Indian team was decided and it was learnt that the defending champions shall fly to England in a bid to reclaim the title.

Led by Virat Kohli, the 15 man squad saw the return of Rohit Sharma and Mohammed Shami into the squad. Both were regulars in the team earlier, but an injury lay-off saw them miss out on some action. The other members of the squad are all familiar names with Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane making the cut as openers along with Rohit, while the likes of captain Virat Kohli, stalwart Yuvraj Singh, flamboyant Kedar Jadhav and the solid Manish Pandey comprise the middle order. As expected, MS Dhoni has been carried on as the main wicketkeeper for the side.

Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja make up the spin department as well as the all-rounders slot. Giving them company for the latter is Hardik Pandya, who might be handy in English conditions with his fast medium pace and lower order hitting.

Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah are the four seamers who complete what looks like a good, balanced side.

The 5 members who were pretty actively talked about in selection meetings were Rishabh Pant, Kuldeep Yadav, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik and Shardul Thakur, all of whom have made it to the standby list should there be an injury or an unforeseen situation.

 

One thing which seems pretty clear and open about this team selection: this seems like it was put together a while back with no significance given to the IPL performances. Given the Champions Trophy was set to begin little more than a week after the IPL and that the squad had to be announced in the beginning of the IPL season, there was a lot of speculation surrounding the effect that the IPL might have on squad selection. The opinion was that the performers in the current IPL might be in the ascendency for selection. But it does not seem to have turned out that way.

IPL season proved to be an extra motivation both for the youngsters and the experienced oldsters, whose places in them were in jeopardy, to come out strong and prove a point. Putting all that to bed, BCCI instead went ahead with the regular members of the team. The standby list, comprising of the three youngsters and Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik, seems to be down to more of domestic season’s performances rather than the IPL.

Speaking to the media, Chief selector MSK Prasad stated: “We considered Rishabh Pant, Kuldeep Yadav, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik and Shardul Thakur. They are on our standby list for the ICC Champions Trophy. We discussed Kuldeep. He narrowly missed out, but has a big role to play in future. Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya are youngsters we’ve been grooming. We’re extremely pleased with Rishabh and will groom him too.”

Raina had been a regular member until recently. With his performances improving, he got back into the reckoning. Karthik was in exemplary touch in the domestic circuit and helped Tamil Nadu claim the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Pant too had a sensational season where he scored 972 runs in 8 matches with an average of 81, among the best in the season. Kuldeep Yadav too did reasonably well; picking up 35 wickets in 8 games and was ever so effective in the Dharamshala Test that it put him well ahead of the pack. Shardul Thakur has been impressive in the domestic circuit for a while and was rewarded for the same.

A lot of bowlers and batsmen who did well in the IPL found themselves not in the reckoning. The likes of Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and even Sanju Samson have been standout performers with the bat, while young guns Siddharth Kaul and Jaydev Unadkat have come of age and bowled some match-winning spells.

These decisions have sparked off debates. While the non-selection of Samson, Kaul and Unadkat might be justified for T20, as Indian conditions are a completely different ball game, but the experience and rich vein of form of Gambhir and Uthappa could have certainly added value to the side; especially Uthappa who can keep as well and as bat at different positions.

Pant and Yadav are still very young and would likely need further experience before making the cut for such a coveted tournament. However, one name that seems to have been the most unfairly treated is Raina, who was also shrugged off the central contract list.

Raina has been serving Indian cricket selflessly and has made quite a few very important contributions to the team’s sake without getting much recognition. That is probably what earned him the slack.

Apart from these names, the squad seriously seems to be missing a leg spinner. Although England conditions suit faster bowlers, we have often seen Adil Rashid pick wickets regularly. With the rising influence of leg spinners in the game, that spot might be one that should have been looked into. There were quite a few names that could have been drafted in: Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and even Amit Mishra could all have made the cut.

 

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