Somewhere during the next four days of the India-Sri Lanka Test in Pallekele, the Indian team selectors will meet and discuss the way forward and squad composition for the limited over series – five ODIs and a T20I – having already sealed the deal in the Test matches. There were suggestions that some of the big stars might be rested following a packed calendar which saw the Indian Premier League, ICC Champions Trophy and then tour to West Indies being played back-to-back with little gap between that period. However, India captain Virat Kohli rebuffed those suggestions saying he wants to continue playing.
“My participation? Who said I am not playing?” said Kohli when asked about his participation in the ODIs. “I don’t know where this came from… if you don’t want me to play, then tell me… I have no problems in playing.”
Kohli said he had thought about the team composition for the ODIs and will discuss when the selectors convene. “We are going to sit down on selection soon and we certainly have plans in mind and combinations that we want to speak about,” Kohli said. “So as captain I am definitely in the thick of things and know what to speak to the committee about.”
The big question to make for the selectors, and Kohli himself, would be over the selection of MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh. Both men are past 35 years old and if the team is to start building towards the 2019 World Cup, the time to give youngsters chance begins now. Both have shared their activity on social media while readying for the tour – Yuvraj with videos in the gym and Dhoni after fitness camp at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) alongside Suresh Raina. Also present at the camp is Kedar Jadhav.
While Dhoni and Jadhav remain certainties for the Sri Lanka tour, Raina too remains in the fray. He hasn’t played an ODI for India since October 2015. He was on the standby list for the Champions Trophy but didn’t make it in the end. “What can I say now? It’s really disappointing and hurting. I was expecting a comeback call this time. I have been performing well and consistently, proving myself in the ongoing IPL season. Certainly it is not on the expected lines but I would let my bat do the talking as I am sure of my comeback in the Indian squad one day,” Raina had said to Hindustan Times then.
Also in contention for place in the side or the squad at least would be KL Rahul who is fit and playing in the island nation and Manish Pandey gave a good account of himself for the India A side in the tri-nation series in South Africa. There is a formidable bench waiting for their turn but if the selectors go ahead with full-strength squad, most would have to wait.
In the bowling department, Kuldeep Yadav could well maintain his place having sat out the first two Tests and then coming in for the third following Ravindra Jadeja’s suspension. The team has also come around to the need of a genuine wrist spinner. “A guy like Kuldeep, when you hand him the ball he is willing to bowl in any situation, willing to bowl with attacking fields, willing to throw the ball up towards the batsmen, he believes in his own ability and believes in deceiving the batsmen with the skill that he has so,” Kohli had said of Kuldeep. “I think that’s his biggest quality. A chinaman bowler is always something, which is an x-factor in a team. I would say his confidence is his USP.”
Both Jadeja and Ashwin have had a busy season but both have been off-colour in limited-overs format. Selectors, with an eye on 2019 World Cup, definitely have a lot of tough calls to make.