On the face of it the selection committee meeting held in Mumbai on Wednesday to pick the team for the upcoming tour of Sri Lanka was a routine affair that lasted about 90 minutes. But the composition of squad indicates that this might possibly be the harbinger of change in strategy.
With only specialists seven batsmen,three spinners and a wicket-keeper making it to the 15-member squad there was no place for utility all-rounders. This comes on the back of a mediocre show in Australia and the failure to reach the final of the Asia Cup.
Opener Virender Sehwag and strike bowler Zaheer Khan were brought back to the limited-overs fold after missing the Asia Cup. Opening batsman Ajinkya Rahane was picked as Sachin Tendulkar made himself unavailable. But all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja,Irfan Pathan and Yusuf Pathan didnt fit into the new scheme of things. Yusuf and Irfan were part of the Asia Cup squad.
Jadejas exclusion was along expected lines as his form has dipped since the tour of Australia. But instead of picking a player with similar skills one who can score quick runs and also roll his arm over the selectors opted for a specialist left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha. It is learnt that the selectors did consider all-rounder Jalaj Saxena,who was part of the India A squad that toured West Indies recently,but opted for Ojha.
Medium-pacer Praveen Kumar too didnt find a place as the selectors decided to back fast bowler Umesh Yadav,who missed the Asia Cup due to a shin injury. Yadavs pace upwards of 145 kmph has impressed coach Duncan Fletcher,who attended the meeting. Resting speculation about a change in guard in vice-captaincy,the selectors retained Virat Kohli.
Zaheer is the key
The decision to pick Zaheer was taken after deliberation as there was initially a difference of opinion between the selectors on the amount of cricket the 33-year-old medium-pacer must be involved in.
One school of thought was to give Zaheer a prolonged period of rest so that he stays fresh for the Tests at home against New Zealand and England later this year. But as the common goal of Wednesdays meeting was to pick specialists,the selectors decided that Zaheer would be the best man to lead the attack.
We had a long and healthy discussion with the coach (over the happenings in the last season) as we wanted to make sure that this season starts with a bang. We have picked an experienced team,which is the best available squad at the moment. We are confident that this team will help us get back to the winning ways, Srikkanth said.
About Tendulkars decision to opt out,he said: He has been playing ODIs sparingly. He wants to extend his career and we have a very busy winter ahead with New Zealand,England and Australia coming.
Squad: M S Dhoni (captain),V Kohli,V Sehwag,G Gambhir,S Raina,Rohit Sharma,A Rahane,M Tiwary,R Ashwin,P Ojha,Rahul Sharma,Z Khan,U Yadav,Vinay Kumar,A Dinda.