Is this the last time Indian cricket would see a five-man selection committee at work? The ushering in of the new committee, which the Lodha Committee took objection to, has opted to rest the two spin bowling all rounders, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin for the first three of India’s five-match ODI series against the visiting New Zealand team.
In the mix instead are veteran Suresh Raina and all-rounder Hardik Pandya, with the chairman of selection committee MSK Prasad saying that Raina would be used also as an off spinner.
“We wanted an experienced middle-order batsman who could also bowl and thus went for Raina,” he added. Raina last played for the country in ODIs last October when India lost 2-3 to South Africa at home. He was omitted from the tours of Australia and Zimbabwe and thus this is a recall.
Besides Raina, there are other spin bowling options for the skipper in the form of left-ram spinner Axar Patel, leg spinner Amit Mishra and uncapped Haryana off spinner Jayant Yadav. But with the field restrictions in ODIs permitting just four fielders outside the circle when the spinners would be expected to operate, all spinners would face a herculean task to contain the batsmen.
Injuries to KL Rahul, Shikar Dhawan and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and the resting of Mohammed Shami opened up quite a few places in the side. The selectors, MSK Prasad (Chairman), Devang Gandhi, Sarandeep Singh, Jatin Paranjpe and Gagan Khoda had to ensure that some of the key players were rested to keep them fresh for the gruelling five-Test series against England starting in November.
Manish Pandey who batted beautifully against Australia in Australia was an automatic choice in the team led by MS Dhoni. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane too were certainties. Their presence and also Raina, have left no spot in the team for an emerging batsman. But the selectors have shown faith in young Mandeep Singh and Kedar Jadav. Both had a reasonably good tour of Australia with the India A team led by Pandey and coached by Rahul Dravid.
In the pace bowling front Jasprit Bumrah , Dhawal Kulkarni, Umesh Yadav would be the key men, with Hardik Pandya, expected to chip in whenever he makes the playing eleven.
The fact that the selectors could afford to rest Shami even in the absence of Bhuvaneshwar and Ishant Sharma says a lot about the bench strength of the team.
Mandeep Singh and Kedar Jadav are unlikely to play the first ODI at Dharamsala on October 16. However, it would be interesting to see if captain Dhoni goes in for two frontline spinners.
Axar Patel did reasonably well in IPL and in the few chances that he got and it would be interesting to see how he copes with the four-fielder restriction in the deep against the Kiwi batsmen who’d be used to playing on Indian surfaces after a particularly testing Test schedule.
For Dhoni and the selectors this five-match ODI series and the later ones against England and Australia should provide an excellent opportunity to forge a strong team for the Champions Trophy in England next summer.
These three ODIs for which the team has been identified is thus the first step towards that end. The newcomers would be looking to impress on the big stage while the comeback men would be aiming to regain a permanent spot in the national side. Hence the stakes are certainly high for the Indian players and they should be on the ball and stay motivated irrespective of the goings-on outside the field.
India ODI squad: MS Dhoni (capt), Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Manish Pandey, Suresh Raina, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Amit Mishra, Jasprit Bumrah, Dhawal Kulkarni, Umesh Yadav, Mandeep Singh and Kedar Jadhav.