Amidst a moral and legal storm, a team had to be picked to represent India, to drag the cricket lover to the back page again. Largely, it wasn’t a difficult exercise. The batsmen and spinners picked themselves and selecting the fast bowlers was a bit like drawing names out of a hat. They were helped by the fact that the World T20 is in Dhaka where India’s limitations can be diluted a bit. A team for a T20 in South Africa would have been a search for options.
The really big question was whether or not to pick Yuvraj Singh. Before his unfortunate illness, he would have been the second name on the sheet after the captain. Sadly since then, while life has been a celebration, cricket hasn’t quite been the same and after losing his spot in the one-day side and having an ordinary Ranji Trophy season with Punjab, even his staunchest fans would have expected a debate over his selection.
There wouldn’t be a person in India who wouldn’t want to see Yuvraj at his best again. And the selectors have told him they believe he is up to it again because of the package he offers. As one of six batsmen, he has a bit of a cushion, in sub-continent conditions if he can give his captain even two overs every game it would be valuable and while he could never hope to become the fielder he was again, he has done very well to closely resemble the Yuvraj we knew. I feared he wouldn’t be picked but a big part of me is happy, even relieved because if he doesn’t make the World Cup team, this might be the last time we see him for India.
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The only other batting choice seems to have been between Ajinkya Rahane and Ambati Rayudu though I thought Dinesh Karthik was a very strong candidate… The fact that Rahane has been picked means the selectors are looking for cover for Rohit Sharma as the second opener. Rohit’s best performances in T20 have come as a finisher from number four and it would be very tempting to play him there. But that would mean a fight between Yuvraj and Suresh Raina for the last batting position and ideally Dhoni would want both since he can get a couple of overs out of each. Ironically it means Rayudu finds himself out in the format he is most effective in at the moment!
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the discussion came around to fit the seam bowling slots. Not much of a debate over Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohd Shami but they would have needed to call in the detectives to find the other two. There are a lot of bowlers bowling seam up at the moment but none to gladden the selectors’ hearts and as a result death bowling remains the weakest link in this side.
Eventually they have gone with Mohit Sharma on the basis of his IPL performance nine months ago. To be fair he bowled well then but in the couple of one-day games he’s played, he has struggled to convince people that he belongs at this level. The selectors have gone with Varun Aaron for the last spot. He provides pace but in New Zealand it was clear that he doesn’t yet have the control to bowl the tough overs which his profession demands he does. If you cannot look beyond two seam bowlers from twenty seven first class teams and eight IPL franchises, the situation must be grim.
I wonder what kind of surfaces Dhaka would throw up. If they are slowish 140-150 kind of pitches India have a chance because it means Dhoni can play around with his slow bowlers where he is most at home. But I greatly fear that if India have to play a 180 run game, they will find it tough to contain the opposition.
There is also an Asia Cup to get away with before the World T20 and it is heartening to see Cheteshwar Pujara in that squad. Having picked him, they must play him because there aren’t too many games before next year’s World Cup. But playing him will mean giving up on Rohit Sharma at the top of the order for Pujara can only play at number one or two. With Rahane struggling at four, Rohit can go back there though it will mean jettisoning a year’s experience. I hope therefore that the thought behind Pujara’s selection is clear and decisive.