Selection headaches for India ahead of first Champions Trophy game

India have had a great start to their Champions trophy campaign. They won both their warm-up games with ease and they would be particularly pleased with the way the pace attack has performed.

The batting, however, was a mixed bag. India came into the tournament with an idea of who they would like to play in the XI, but after the warm-up games things have become little muddled.

Shikhar Dhawan has done enough to book his place in the XI, opening the batting with Rohit Sharma. Virat Kohli showed glimpses of him returning form against New Zealand – even though the innings was really scratchy, he would have appreciated the time spent in the middle. MS Dhoni’s position in the team is not in question as he batted reasonably well in the one game he played and kept wickets brilliantly.

Ajinkya Rahane’s twin failure means that he will not feature in the XI for the first game against Pakistan. But now comes the interesting part: India played Dinesh Karthik in both their warm-up games and Yuvraj did not bat in either. Dinesh Karthik scored a brilliant 94 in the Game 2 against Bangladesh and Virat Kohli hinted in the post-match conversation that he would like to give Karthik a longer run in the team.

The position of Yuvraj Singh remains unclear, however. Is Yuvraj not fully fit? If that is the case, his selection was a blunder by the selection committee. Kedar Jadhav played pretty well for his 30-odd against Bangladesh and so did Hardik Pandya, so it will be interesting to see which way the management will go in terms of the batting.

The selection of the bowling attack isn’t that simple either. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has done extremely well in both the games and for sure will take the new ball. Shami and Yadav both have done well in the chances they received, but I am not sure the team has a place for both of them. It will be a toss-up between Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav. Jasprit Bumrah will for sure play as the third seamer as he has been India’s best bowler in the shorter formats over the past year.

Complete Article at The Roar.

Selectors need to look past Rohit Sharma

When Rohit Sharma walked into bat in the 2008 Commonwealth Bank Series final in Australia, India were in a bit of strife. Chasing 240 to win India were 87/3 in the 20th over. Rohit Sharma joined a set Sachin Tendulkar in the middle and played one of the most mature innings you would see a youngster play. Rohit was only 20 then and the kind of composure and confidence he showed at the crease made everyone think that here is a guy for the future.

Unfortunately for the Indian cricket team and fans Rohit was never able to consistently replicate that performance in the 5 years he has been part of the Indian set up. The 2007/08 season was probably the best time in Rohit’s career as a player. Rohit Sharma has received unanimous support from the selectors and the team management over the years but he hasn’t been able to fulfill the early promise he had shown. In the last few years he has been able to sparingly remind the Indian cricket fans what he is capable of but has lacked consistency.

Table 1:

Performances of Indian batsmen since Rohit’s debut:

stats1

The above table further emphasizes Rohit’s struggle with the bat. He features near bottom of the table just ahead of Rahul Dravid and R Jadeja. Rohit’s struggle with the bat can be attributed to his lack of temperament. His constant swipes across the line to straight deliveries and playing ridiculous shots to get out after a decent start shows that he does not have the temperament to play at this level.

Rohit needs a break from International cricket and needs to play couple of seasons in domestic cricket. There are lots of players in domestic cricket who haven’t received the kind of chances Rohit has in the past few years and they would be feeling hard done by the selectors. Robin Uthappa, Ambati Rayudu and Manoj Tiwary need long run in the ODI team and it is time we look past Rohit Sharma in the ODI squad.

Rohit is a great talent but talent alone isn’t sufficient to succeed at the highest level. The Mumbai batsman needs to work on the mental aspect of his game to be successful at the highest level. The only way he can do that is to play lot of games away from international cricket. If possible Rohit should consider playing county cricket for a season if he is offered an opportunity. Rohit can still be India’s future middle order batsman in all formats but at this point he is not the answer to our batting woes.

5 years and 86 games is a long time to judge a player and I feel Rohit has been given enough time to succeed and now is the time to reprise the same faith on other youngsters to see how they do.

Sehwag gets the axe as Pujara receives maiden ODI call up

The team for the upcoming ODI series against England was announced yesterday and the selection committee dropped Sehwag for the first 3 ODI’s. Sehwag has been pretty poor over the past year and has been rightly dropped for young Ajinkya Rahane. Since the double hundred against West Indies in December 2011, Sehwag averages just 23 from 11 games. Rohit Sharma retains his spot in the squad in spite of having a poor 2012. Rohit averaged just 13 over the last 14 games which makes his selection pretty perplexing. The selectors said Rohit’s selection was due to lack of alternatives. Manoj Tiwary’s injury also was another reason for Rohit to retain his spot in the squad. 

Cheteshwar Pujara received his much deserved maiden ODI call up after some great performances in domestic cricket. The rest of the squad which recently lost to Pakistan was retained for the first 3 ODI’s against England.

The performances of B Kumar and Shami Ahmed meant that they retained their spots for the England series too. Ishant was India’s second best pacer in the series against Pakistan behind B Kumar and seemed to have gotten his groove back. R Jadeja too retained his spot with a good all round show in the final ODI against Pakistan. Dinda and Mishra who were in the squad against Pakistan were also retained for the series against England.

The biggest concern for India has been their batting over the past few months and the addition of Pujara to the lineup seems to be an effort to strengthen the fragile top order. It will be interesting to see though if he gets in to the X1 though. Sehwag’s absence means that Rahane will open the batting with Gautam Gambhir. Kohli will come in at number 3 followed by Yuvraj, Dhoni and Raina. Jadeja and Ashwin will be the specialist spinners in the squad followed by B Kumar, Ishant and Shami Ahmed.

India will hope that their batsmen get into some sort of form against an English attack which got better of them in the just concluded test series. Virat Kohli’s form will be a big concern as he was India’s best player over the past two years in the 50 over format. The bowling looked in decent shape against Pakistan in the just concluded series and the bowling of young B Kumar and Shami Ahmed was particularly impressive with the new ball.

This will be an interesting series as England is not known to be a great ODI squad but have had a great 2012 in terms of results in the shorter format. India though had pretty mixed 2012 and hasn’t begun 2013 on a great note. Both teams will go all out and it will be interesting to see how the Indian batting lineup fares against a good English pace attack.

Indian Squad:

MS Dhoni (capt), Cheteshwar Pujara, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami Ahmed, Amit Mishra.

Probable X1 for the first ODI:

Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni(Capt), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, B Kumar, Shami Ahmed, Ishant Sharma

Team selection defies logic

The Indian team for the first two tests against the visiting English team has been announced and as usual there are some surprising inclusions in the squad. This is the first international series for the newly appointed selection committee and everyone was keen to know how they will go. Looking at the team for the first couple of tests it seems like they are no different from the selection committee they just replaced. They did not make a great impression with the selection of the India A squad which played England about a week back.

The new leadership hasn’t brought about any major changes in the selection of the team. So let us look at the picks. Out of the 15 members selected 10 players pick themselves due to their performances in the recent home series. The only spot which was up for grabs was the number six in the batting order. Raina was preferred in the home tests against West Indies and New Zealand but did not make any impact in both the series. Yuvraj with his good performance in the first tour game for India pretty much sealed the spot. He also provides variety to the bowling attack with this part-time left arm spin. Raina is left out of the 15 which is perplexing as he was persisted with for about a year and now suddenly he finds himself out of favor.

Murali Vijay makes a comeback to the squad due to his performances in domestic cricket this season. This is where it gets confusing. India has Gambhir and Sehwag as the openers and then has Rahane as backup in the squad. The selection of Vijay completely defies logic, that too only for the first two tests. I don’t see a reason to pick 4 openers for a home series. The best logical selection would have been someone like Manoj Tiwary who would have added extra strength to the fragile middle order. Manoj Tiwary seems to find himself out of favor for some reason with the selection committee, no matter who heads them. The guy just scored 90 odd against the touring English side but still finds out of the test team.

The other selection which makes no sense is inclusion of Harbhajan Singh. Harbhajan has done nothing of note in recent times and his recall to the Indian side just shows the complete lack of good spinners in domestic cricket. The fact that Ashwin and Ojha are sure starters for the first test makes Harbhajan’s selection even more perplexing. It would have been better for Bajji to play in domestic cricket to regain some form instead of sitting in the dressing room and carry drinks. Unless India is planning to play three spinners (Which I doubt considering India don’t have a pace bowling all-rounder in the squad) and 5 bowlers this selection isn’t making any sense at the moment.

Ishant Sharma as the third pacer also is an interesting selection but we can give benefit of doubt to the selectors on this as he has been India’s third seamer for about a year now. Bowling in home conditions which doesn’t encourage any swing, his type of bowling might be more suited. Even though the squad is mostly on the expected lines, the selectors have basically regressed and made some populist choices without keeping Indian cricket’s future in mind. Let’s just hope that when they sit down to select the team for the final two tests they do make the correct decision and include some good young players in the squad.

The playing X1 though would be a strong one and wouldn’t differ too much from the team which beat New Zealand couple months back.

India X1 (first two tests): Sehwag, Gambhir, Pujara, Tendulkar, Kohli, Yuvraj, Dhoni (Capt. Wkt.), Ashwin, Zaheer, Yadav, Ojha

12th Man: Rahane

West Indies Tour – Chance for the youngsters to shine

With the IPL nearing the play offs, the Indian selectors will convene in Chennai tomorrow to select the Indian team to tour West Indies next month. It is going to be an interesting selection as it seems like almost an A team would visit the Caribbean at least for the ODI-T20 leg of the tour. The IPL has thrown up some interesting names for the selection and it will all depend on how many seniors want to actually play in the ODI’s. The West Indies team is currently struggling but as seen in the series against Pakistan they cannot be written off completely. The Indian team will also not be as lucky as Pakistan since once the IPL is done, Gayle, Bravo, Taylor and Pollard will be back to bolster the WI line up. So I am guessing that the Indian team will have a good mix of youth and experience.

So let’s look at the possible candidates for the WI tour. After great performances for Mumbai Indians in IPL, it seems like finally Ambati Rayudu might fulfill the promise which was seen in him about 10 years back. He is also a wicket-keeper, so his success will mean that we will have a capable understudy to Dhoni on tours. The other player who might get a look in is Subramaniam Badrinath, who has looked in incredible touch for CSK in this IPL and has also had an impressive domestic season prior to that. Rohit Sharma might also get a call back as he has been in impressive form in the IPL. Apart from these three there are other contenders in batting such as Rahane, Pujara (Provided he is fit) and Murali Vijay.

If Dhoni decides to skip the ODI’s, Ghambir might captain the team to WI for the ODI leg. With very good chance of senior players giving the ODI a skip, this tour will provide excellent chance for young Indian batsmen to prove themselves at international level. The bowling line up though will provide much interesting selection. With Ashish Nehra missing out due to Injury, we will see Praveen Kumar making a comeback to the national side. Ishant Sharma who bowled brilliantly for his IPL side Deccan Chargers will also be in the reckoning. It was heartening to see Ishant getting his pace and accuracy back. Munaf Patel who has been consistent and accurate for the past few months will for sure make the side.

Varun Aaron, the new pace sensation might be the wild card but I don’t think the selectors will pick him ahead of Vinay Kumar and Umesh Yadav. Zaheer I am sure will be rested for the ODI and T20. The spinning combination will be an interesting one. With lots of them doing extremely well in the IPL, it will be a tough pick for the selectors. Ravichandran Ashwin will for sure make the squad and if the selectors decide to rest Bajji for the ODI’s we might see Pragyan Ojha making the cut too. Rahul Sharma who has had a dream IPL with his consistent leg-breaks will also be in the radar for the selectors. Amit Mishra and Iqbal Abdulla who have been very economical in the IPL will also be in the discussion. I am thinking that Amit Mishra might anyways make it to the test team but they might want to try Rahul Sharma in the ODI’s to see how he does at the international level. Piyush Chawla though would be missing out as he had a bad World Cup followed by an equally awful IPL.

The seniors are for sure are expected to be back for the test series and there might not be many surprises in the test squad. With Sehwag missing Vijay might join Ghambir at the top of the order followed by Dravid, Sachin and Laxman. The number 6 spot again will be in the discussion and I hope that they give another chance to the young Pujara. Raina might probably make the squad too unless the selectors want to include another youngster in his spot. The bowling for sure will feature Zaheer, Sreesanth and probably Ishant as the three speedsters and Bajji might be joined by Mishra in the spin department. All in all this is going to be an interesting selection and I hope that some youngsters get a look in at least in the shorter format.

The WI tour will be a potential banana skin tour for the Indians as they are expected to win it comfortably. With the return of the stars WI is not going to be pushovers in either format and the Indians need to play extremely well to win the series convincingly. The number 1 test team needs to win all the three games to avoid losing any points and the ODI team needs to win the series pretty convincingly to not drop down the ODI rankings. So this will surely be in the mind of the selectors when picking the players for the tour. Duncan Fletcher is expected to join the selection meeting tomorrow in Chennai and I don’t think he will have too much of an input as this is expected to be just an introduction exercise for the new Indian coach.

Team India preview – Weight of Expectations

India would be entering this world cup not only with the pressure of being one of the host nation but also one of the favorites. The favorite tag is not something given to them just for being the host nation but has been gained by Dhoni’s men through consistent performances over the last couple of years. So let’s take a look at the Indian team composition.

Everyone knows that the strength of Indian team is always their batting and rightly so. The batting is power packed with the addition of Yusuf Pathan lower down the order. The top order comprises of Sachin Tendulkar, Sehwag and Ghambir followed by Yuvraj Singh, Raina/Kohli and Dhoni forming the middle order. So a fantastic batting line up who can on their day destroy any bowling attack on the subcontinent pitches. Sachin joining Sehwag at the top means that Ghambir has to drop down to number 3 in the order.

Virat Kohli’s excellent form with the bat for over a year means that Suresh Raina would most probably have to give way to him in the X1. Yuvraj will hang on to the number 4 spot followed by the captain Dhoni and Pathan to provide the finishing touches. The bowling though will be a huge concern for the captain and the coach. The combination for their first game in just couple of day’s time will be a huge headache. None of the pace bowlers looked threatening in the couple of warm up games which India played. The spinners though did a brilliant job. So now the question is whether to play a 2 pace/2 spin combination or go with the tried and tested 3 pace/1 spin attack.

The spinners Chawla, Ashwin and Harbajan have for sure out bowled the pacers in the lead up games which means that Dhoni might want to go with two spinners. Zaheer will be for sure one of the pacers in the team but his partner is still to be decided. Nehra, Sreesanth and Munaf have struggled in the lead up and none of them has looked like picking up wickets or containing the batsmen with the new ball. So the tossup can be random as it probably wouldn’t make too much of a difference. So all in all I think the onus is for sure on the batting. The batsmen cannot have too many off days in the middle during this world cup. The Indian bowling is thin and on flat batting decks will struggle to contain the opposition.

The Indian team for me resembles the 1996 Sri Lanka team when they won the world cup. Sri Lanka’s plan was simple during that time, bowl first and chase with their powerful batting line up. They like India only had one good pace bowler and one experienced spinner. They relied heavily on the part-timers to choke the opposition in the middle overs and it was extremely successful. So India needs to also play to their strength which is their spinners. Harbajan and Chawla/Ashwin will be the way to go for the Indians.

So with great batting and adequate bowling for this conditions, India for sure are one of the favorites for the world cup. I think if the bowling stands up to be counted this time, they have an excellent chance of going the distance. Dhoni also has to use the part-timers wisely and has plenty of options in that regard. India have had a decent track record at world cup’s played in the subcontinent as they have at least reached the semis on the previous two occasions (1987 and 1999) and would want to go one step further this time. This world cup also marks the last for Sachin Tendulkar and he would for sure want to sign out from the 50 over format in a grand style. I hope that team India can give us fans with plenty to cheer about in the coming month and a half and I wish Dhoni and his men all the success.

My Indian X1 for Bangladesh clash: Sachin Tendulkar, Virendar Sehwag, Gautham Ghambir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni (Capt, Wkt), Yusuf Pathan, Piyush Chawla/Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth (I go with sree as he has the ability to produce match winning spells)