When the Indian selectors met in Delhi last evening to pick India’s ODI and T20I squads for the tour of Australia, not many would have imagined that post the declaration of the teams, there would be such an overwhelming reaction. The most significant reason behind that over the moon response was that India’s greatest match winner in limited overs cricket, Yuvraj Singh was back in the T20I setup.
The nature of call ups for both the forms were contrasting in nature to say the least. In the T20I squad, reputed veterans of Indian cricket such as Ashish Nehra and Yuvraj Singh were recalled, in order to add their value to an energetic Indian unit led by the uncompromising MS Dhoni. From the ODI point of view though, new faces were handed up with call ups. The Indian selectors have made as many as 8 changes to the squad which lost the ODI series at home against South Africa. The individuals to be removed are: S Aravind, Stuart Binny, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Mohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Amit Mishra.
These individuals have been replaced by the younger lot, who have shown a lot of promise in the domestic circuit. Manish Pandey for instance, has been duly rewarded for years of hard work. Pandey, in his only game for India had played a crucial knock of 71 against Zimbabwe. India’s two best bowlers from 2013 till the 2015 World Cup, Mohammad Shami and Ravindra Jadeja too find themselves back in the mix. These two had been instrumental with the ball when India was the number one ODI side in 2013. Considering his brilliant run off late and the Australian conditions, it was just common sense to recall the experienced Ishant Sharma.
But the one person who deserved a maiden call up long ago has finally found his name in the selectors’ list. It is Himachal Pradesh all rounder Rishi Dhawan, who has performed in every aspect of domestic cricket. His displays for India A have been terrific to say the least. An unknown commodity in the squad is Brainder Sran, the left arm pacer from Punjab. Sran was mainly chosen as he offers variety considering that he is a left arm pacer. He can bowl at a decent pace as well, and if he clicks, he can be an ideal long term folly to Shami and Umesh Yadav.
The top order of the ODI team looks settled with Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane settling in. Dhawan however, is running out of time. A failure in the ODI series could have disastrous consequences for him. The fifth and the sixth slot will be taken by Manish Pandey and MS Dhoni in all probability. For the all rounder’s slot of number seven, there would be a call between Dhawan and Jadeja. One can also not ignore Gurkeerat Mann, who has been a great find as well. R. Ashwin will be the lead spinner, while the first choice pacers will be Ishant, Shami and Yadav. Sran could get a game if one of the pacers falter.
As a whole, the ODI team has an appeal of freshness to it. Suresh Raina’s axing has meant that the selectors mean genuine business. Raina’s spot virtually has 3 candidates in the form of Pandey, Mann and Dhawan. The three are extremely talented and the series in Australia offers them a superlative opportunity. Considering that the next 50 over ICC event is in 2017, there is a lot of time to accommodate this side. The likes of Pandey, Sran and Dhawan can surely fit in taking into account the long term scenario.
India’s T20I unit though, looks far more settled and fierce. A recall to the veteran Yuvraj Singh will massively boost the middle order, which waned off against South Africa in the 3 match T20I series. Yuvraj’s presence means that he can anchor the innings well, and can also finish with a bang. With a dynamite like Yuvraj around, the top order batsmen like Rohit and Virat too can be more comfortable about the batting to follow. Keeping in mind the World T20 in March, Suresh Raina has been retained and that is a good move.
The X factor for India though, has been Hardik Pandya. Pandya undoubtedly was the find of IPL 2015, as he hammered the ball a long way, and bowled at a decent pace. Pandya at 7 will offer a lot in the T20I side and is a genuine asset worth having. Ashish Nehra, who had an impeccable 2015 IPL as well, is back in the mix after an agonizing span of 4 years. There are distinct benefits of having Nehra around. Firstly, he is a left arm pacer and shall offer variety. Secondly, with experience by his side, he can solve India’s death bowling woes. With the new ball as well, he can swing it into the right hander, creating some trouble.
Umesh Yadav’s name in the T20I squad was another aggressive move by the selectors. Yadav has been a consistent performer for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL. If Yadav does well in Australia against some ferocious batsmen, expect him to be in the squad for the T20 World Cup. Shami’s return will once again be a boon for the bowling. How can one ignore the experience of Harbhajan Singh, who has a special relationship with Australia? By selecting Harbhajan and Nehra, the selectors have sent a message that current form was a massive factor in naming the squad. Both the experienced bowlers can bowl match turning spells for India. Harbhajan can also assist R. Ashwin efficiently.
Shikhar Dhawan has done nothing noteworthy in T20I’s till date. A failure in the first game will mean that Rahane will replace him. In fact, Dhawan’s form in the ODI series alone will decide his spot in the T20I’s. Once again, for the all rounder’s slot, there will be two options between Jadeja and Pandya.
All in all, both the units have their unique appeal. The tour of Australia will be a rigorous test for the two squads. A successful tour Down Under will definitely help India’s ambitions in the long run.