The India squads for the upcoming tour of West Indies, which will begin with a T20I series on August 3, was announced on Sunday. The teams will play three ODIs and two Test matches between August 8 and August 30. Five players – skipper Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja and wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant – have been selected in all the three squads.
End of road for Vijay, Karthik?
Murali Vijay, who had a miserable outing in Australia in December last year, has not been picked in the Test squad. The 35-year-old, who has 3982 runs from 61 Tests, did not set the IPL on fire either, only being selected in the Chennai Super Kings XI in two matches.
Dinesh Karthik, who managed a total of 14 runs in three matches in the World Cup, has been dropped from the limited-overs squads. At 34, age is not on the Kolkata Knight Riders captain’s side and it might be hard for him to stage another comeback.
While Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan are set to continue opening the innings for India in limited-overs formats, India might be on the lookout for a new opening combination in Tests. Neither Vijay nor Dhawan have been included in the Test squad.
Mayank Agarwal, drafted into the squad midway through the Australia series in January, was phenomenal in the two opportunities he was given – opening the innings with Hanuma Vihari in Melbourne and with KL Rahul in Sydney.
Rahul and Mayank – longtime friends and the first duo from Karnataka to open for India – might have been given the opportunity to cement the opening slots for the next few years.
No. 4 and other middle order problems
One of the biggest talking points from the squad announcement has been the return of Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey, both of whom have been picked in the limited-overs squads.
India’s lack of a steady No. 4 batsman has been ascribed by many to have been the team’s Achilles heel in the World Cup. Both Iyer and Pandey are perfectly suited to playing precisely that role. Both of them have been impressive in leadership roles in recent months – Iyer in the IPL and Pandey leading India ‘A’.
MS Dhoni’s absence from the limited-overs sides gives both Iyer and Pandey to attempt to fill his boots in the middle order too.
At the age of 29 and with 23 ODIs behind him, Pandey would be looking at this opportunity as a last chance to cement his place in the squad. Iyer, on the other hand, has an average of 42 from 6 ODIs.
Behind the stumps
Rishabh Pant has been named in all three squads but Wriddhiman Saha’s return to the Test side could give mixed signals. Soon after the squad announcement, Harsha Bhogle tweeted: “Saha is clearly the better keeper, was the incumbent when injured. But if Pant is the keeper they want to go with, there is little to be gained by having Saha hanging around.”
Parthiv Patel, who was in the Test side in Australia, and Dinesh Karthik, who has been part of the limited-overs setup in recent times, have both been shown the door. In fact, chief selector MSK Prasad categorically said that it is Srikar Bharat who was discussed as a possible contender for the wicketkeeper’s role.
“With the stellar performances that Bharat has given for India A in the last year with three centuries and 50 dismissals which is fantastic, we will be looking at (Rishabh) Pant, Saha and Bharat for Test cricket for some time,” he said on Sunday.
The big talking point from the squad announcement in terms of India’s pace arsenal has been the call-up for Navdeep Saini, who was brilliant in an otherwise miserable IPL season for Royal Challengers Bangalore. With Jasprit Bumrah having been rested, Saini and Khaleel Ahmed, who has played 8 ODIs and 9 T20Is, will shoulder a lot of responsibility in the limited-overs series.
One other surprise from the squad announcement was the fact that Bhuvneshwar Kumar is being seen as a limited-overs specialist despite having one the best bowling records among Indian pacers in recent times. In fact, Bhuvneshwar was the Man of the Match in his last Test. However, Bhuvneshwar has been dropped from the Test side. Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav are the Test specialists, while Mohammed Shami will play both Tests and ODIs.
Spinners who can bat
Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, who did not have the best of times in the World Cup, have been relegated a little in the scheme of things in the national team. Neither has been picked in the T20I squad and only Kuldeep has been named in the Test side.
The four spinners in India’s T20I squad – Washington Sundar, Ravindra Jadeja, Krunal Pandya, Rahul Chahar – can offer much more muscle to India’s lower order than Kuldeep and Chahal. This could be an indication that India are looking to cut down on the length of their tail with the 2020 World T20 in mind.
India’s squad for three T20Is: Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma (VC), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (WK), Krunal Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Rahul Chahar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini
India’s squad for three ODIs: Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma (VC), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kedar Jadhav, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Navdeep Saini
India’s squad for two Tests: Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane (VC), Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, C Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (WK) Wriddhiman Saha (WK), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav