As the sun set elegantly over the Cricket Club of India on Friday, and just before the members could drag out their wicker chairs, Sanju Samson and Karn Sharma sat soaking in the limelight. The duo had just played their parts in India A’s comprehensive win over the visiting West Indians in the first of two practice games. And with the ODI series less than a week ago, the official broadcasters had decided to snap up the two newest faces of the Indian national team for a little chat in front of the camera.
Not far away, stood Sandeep Patil and the rest of his national selection committee in the middle of an intense tete-a-tete with coach Lalchand Rajput. Less than 24 hours later, both Karn and Samson had been demoted again. They were back among the second-string and no longer the immediate future of Indian cricket.
Patil & Co had decided that they had seen enough of Karn, who played in the solitary T20 at Edgbaston, and Samson, who didn’t get a single game in England. In their places came an untested greenhorn, Kuldeep Yadav, who’s yet to appear in a competitive 50-over contest at the senior level, and a seasoned veteran in Amit Mishra who made his ODI debut a decade ago.
To his credit, Karn did make an impression on international debut with four tight overs and the wicket of Joe Root. And for long now, Samson has been touted to be good enough to be played as a batsman rather than be singled out as a reserve wicket-keeper.
Or that was the basis of his selection to England in the first place. Moreover neither Karn nor Samson has played any cricket of note between the England tour and now to prove that their cricketing credentials have transformed in any way.
Mishra, known quantity
If the five-match ODI series against Dwayne Bravo’s West Indian visitors is an opportunity to weigh-in their options going into the World Cup next year, the selection of Mishra is the strangest, considering how proven a commodity the 31-year-old leg-spinner is in the present mix.
In all likelihood, it will be the leg-spinner who will lead the spin attack in the absence of R Ashwin with Ravindra Jadeja for support.
Where does that leave Yadav then? Picked on a punt and on the back of a few eye-catching performances in the CLT20 for KKR, the chinaman bowler is unlikely to get a look-in straight away, and could well end up warming the bench ala Samson and Karn in England.
The ambiguity regarding the ODI team selection doesn’t end there. It extends beyond the spin attack and seeps into the pace squadron. In England, both Dhawal Kulkarni and Umesh Yadav played an ODI each. Kulkarni bowled seven overs and conceded 35 runs while Yadav bowled six overs for 46. But somehow the selectors felt the Vidarbha pacer had done enough in those half-a-dozen overs to keep his place in the side, leaving Kulkarni in the lurch.
By leaving out Stuart Binny, they’ve also indicated that they might prefer sticking to a spin-bowling all-rounder in Jadeja not just in the subcontinent and probably even Down Under.
These five ODIs set to be the last opportunity for those on the fringes to make their case before the World Cup squad gets announced in January.
The same goes for Patil & Co as they look to settle on a combination that they think will be the best to defend the world crown.
As for Karn and Samson, they’ll go into India A’s second practice game at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday wondering what they did wrong while soaking in the action during the English summer from the sidelines.
SQUAD FOR 1ST THREE ODIs
MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, M Vijay, Kuldeep Yadav
Out: R Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Dhawal Kulkarni, Sanju Samson, Karn Sharma
IN: Kuldeep Yadav & Amit Mishra