After a day when the show was stolen by Hardik Pandya's heroics, Indian selectors dropped a bomb by omitting some big names for the ODI series and lone T20 in Sri Lanka. Yuvraj Singh was the most prominent name to be officially declared 'dropped', although six others who were in the touring party in the Caribbean missed out this time around.
Umesh Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami are probably in the ‘rested’ category for the series while wicket-keepers Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik were dropped in favour of KL Rahul and Manish Pandey.
There are two ways of looking at this squad. First, from a long-term perspective with the 2019 World Cup in mind and second, in view of the current scenario. Either way, there are a lot of positives to take out of this squad despite a couple of bizarre calls, as can be expected from every team ever selected.
The big call, a right call?
Two-time World Cup winner, Yuvraj, being dropped is probably the biggest news in the cricketing world today. The swashbuckling left-hander is a match winner and had manned the Indian middle-order for several years although it isn't the first time he has faced the axe. Every time he was dropped, Yuvraj has come back roaring but there are reasons to believe that the curtains have finally been drawn on a remarkable limited-overs career.
With the 2019 World Cup in mind, the selectors have probably decided that Yuvraj is surplus to requirements given the rise of Kedar Jadhav, Pandya and Pandey. That they persisted with MS Dhoni is also a clear sign that the former Indian skipper is still considered the No 1 finisher in the country. It is a strange coincidence that Pandya nailed a fine Test hundred on the very day that the selectors decided to drop Yuvraj. Pandya, in one way or the other, is an ideal replacement for Yuvraj's flamboyance and presence in the lower middle-order.
Yuvraj has set high standards for the young Baroda all-rounder to follow and the indications are that Pandya has grabbed the challenge with both hands.
The cream of India's batting talent
There is little doubt that most of India's best limited-overs batsmen are present in this squad. There are as many as four openers in Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul although the latter two are also capable of playing in the middle-order.
Pandey and Jadhav are two others who will probably be fighting for the same spot in the squad. Pandey has mightily impressed for India A in recent months and if he can stay injury-free, India have a gem on their hands.
Jadhav is no different and has rightly been retained despite Pandey and Rahul being included. Dhoni and Pandya will be the assigned finishers and this in itself is an exciting prospect for Indian fans. Overall, the selectors have done a superb job in picking the right mix of players in the batting line-up. The only one who will likely feel left out is dynamic wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant.
He was in the squad that toured the West Indies, but never made his ODI debut and finds himself dropped here. That said, with Dhoni identified as ready for the 2019 challenge, and Jadhav and Rahul capable of handling the gloves, Pant needs more runs in List A cricket to push one of the batsmen out.
Accidental choices the right choices?
The spin department seems to have taken a completely different form with Ashwin and Jadeja rested. Kuldeep Yadav, at 22, seems to be the leader of the pack for these six games with Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel aiding him.
Although the BCCI release does not officially mention that Ashwin and Jadeja are rested, the general notion is that they are. But there is no reason to be shocked if the duo are dropped for good from the ODI squads at least. They were woeful in the Champions Trophy, failing as they did to take enough wickets or contain runs. Axar, India’s highest-ranked spin bowler in ODIs, is possibly a tad lucky to be selected over Krunal Pandya but could use this opportunity to push Jadeja in the ODI setup.
Kuldeep, meanwhile, has revelled in whatever opportunity has been presented to him and with wrist-spinners in high demand, the Chinaman bowler could pose a threat to Ashwin, who has been rather unimpressive in ODIs. Chahal, another wrist-spinner, impressive in the IPL and another of Kohli’s favorites, could also use this opportunity to push for a place in the full-strength squad.
Although there are two big names missing in the spin department, it somehow has a good feel about it and the selectors might just have struck the jackpot, albeit by fluke.
Three pacers and one seaming all-rounder
With Umesh rested and Shami’s workload being managed, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the obvious candidate to lead the pace attack. He has been handed that job with Jasprit Bumrah and Shardul Thakur in support roles. Hardik Pandya, a mighty effective limited-overs bowler, can also add up as a third seamer, if required.
Thakur is probably the only surprising name in this list. A hit-the-deck bowler, Thakur has added quite a few variations to his repertoire as he showcased in the IPL, but it is still a surprise that he nailed a spot ahead of his Rising Pune Supergiant teammate, Jaydev Unadkat. That said, it is unlikely that he will play ahead of Bhuvneshwar or Bumrah at least until India seal the series.
Mixed signals or right choices?
Dropping a stalwart batsman and a young one (Yuvraj and Pant respectively) might evoke mixed responses from critics, but the selectors seem to have gone for the in-form guys, which isn't a bad call at all.
There is quite a lot of batting talent in the country, and for someone like Pant, the omission should ideally act as motivation to perform even better in domestic cricket. However, the selectors have hopefully conveyed matters the right way to this terrific young talent.
The other departments also look neatly packed and India might have made a long stride in direction of the 2019 World Cup. Mixed calls? No, right choices.