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No. 4 Debate to Opening Woes: A Lot on Selectors’ Platter Ahead of West Indies Selection

Devadyuti Das |July 21, 2019, 9:44 AM IST
No. 4 Debate to Opening Woes: A Lot on Selectors’ Platter Ahead of West Indies Selection

The five national selectors of the senior men’s team will meet in Mumbai on Sunday (July 21) for the first time after India’s World Cup semifinal exit earlier this month to pick the squad that will travel to the West Indies.

One of the burning issues was linked to the selection of former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the limited-overs leg of the tour but that puzzle has been solved by the wicketkeeper batsman, who has decided that he will not be available for selection on Saturday.

There are other prickly issues as the selectors have to chart a way forward for this Indian team to the 2020 World T20 first, and then the 2023 50-over World Cup. CricketNext breaks down the matters that will potentially be debated at the selection meeting on Sunday morning.

No. 4 Conundrum

Rishabh Pant and KL Rahul

The No. 4 spot in the Indian ODI line-up was its biggest weak point at the ICC World Cup. Since Ambati Rayudu was discarded by the selectors and the team management, it has been a case of musical chairs at the No. 4 position.

KL Rahul started at the position, to be replaced by Vijay Shankar and was finally followed by Rishabh Pant. But none of them could make that position their own.

Vijay’s injury mid-way through the World Cup did not help. The Tamil Nadu batsman is still not fully fit yet and might not be up for selection for the Caribbean tour.

Impressive performances on the India ‘A’ tour of the West Indies have slightly opened the door for the likes of Manish Pandey, Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer to lay their claims for a middle-order berth.

Man behind the stumps

Rishabh Pant

With Dhoni sitting out the entire West Indies tour, it provides a golden opportunity for young Delhi stumper Pant to seal the position in all three formats for India. Pant, who was billed as the X-factor, didn’t set the World Cup on fire with his display with the willow, only tallying 116 runs from four matches at an average of 29 and a top-score of 48.

The selectors are likely to give Pant a longer rope starting with the series against West Indies. Bengal’s Wriddhiman Saha, who was No. 1 wicketkeeper for India in Tests till his shoulder injury, has regained full fitness and part of the India ‘A’ squad as well, the selectors will look to keep him on as the back-up keeper for the two-Test series.

Opening dilemma

mayank

Delhi opener Shikhar Dhawan has only just started to bat at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) a couple of days back as he continues his rehab from hand injury. In Dhawan’s absence, Rahul may be called to partner childhood friend and Karnataka teammate Mayank Agarwal at the top of the innings in the Test series.

Rahul should continue to open the innings with Rohit Sharma in the ODIs and T20s. Mumbai’s Prithvi Shaw is still not 100 per cent fit as he recovers from the hip injury he suffered during the Mumbai Premier League T20 tournament.

Gill, who has been opening the batting for India ‘A’ against West Indies and opens the innings for Punjab in Ranji Trophy as well could be a choice for back-up opener.

To rest or not to rest

Indian captain Virat Kohli (right) with Jasprit Bumrah. (Pic: AP)

The selectors led by MSK Prasad would be tempted to give the likes of skipper Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah rest from at least the limited-overs series. Kohli and Bumrah are two players who represent India in all formats of the game and apart from performing in the World Cup, they had a long and hard IPL-12 season as well.

While Bumrah will definitely be rested for the T20 and ODI leg, it remains to be seen if skipper Kohli will also opt to put his feet up for a couple of weeks before joining the squad for the two Tests which are part of the World Test Championships.

Pace bowling arsenal

Shami-Bhuvi

Along with Bumrah, pace bowlers Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and all-rounder Hardik Pandya might also be rested for the series. It would give the selectors a good opportunity to test India’s pace bowling bench.

The likes of Navdeep Saini, Khaleel Ahmed and Deepak Chahar might be tried out through the series to give the selectors enough options to choose from if needed.

Return of the specialists

Pujara 1

The usual suspects like Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja should be back for Test duties. Pujara is itching to get back in the Test arena after a man-of-the-series performance in his last series in Australia to lead India to a historic victory.

Rahane, too, has been in impressive form in county cricket after a mixed IPL-12 season along with Ashwin, who has been biding his time patiently in county followed by TNPL now.

It should certainly be an interesting morning for the five selectors in Mumbai on Sunday.

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