Mumbai: In what is speculated as the final leg of MSK Prasad-led selection committee, the chairman, though, is focussed on the future of the team, at least that is what his selections for the forthcoming T20I series against Bangladesh reflected.
Without delving too much into MS Dhoni's unclear international future, Prasad said, "Post World Cup, I have been very clear on this (on Dhoni's absence). We have started backing Rishabh Pant (as first choice wicket-keeper) and we will continue to back him and see that he progresses well," he said in Mumbai on Thursday evening.
Prasad was quick to concede that Pant hasn't delivered as per expectations, but he believed that the dynamic youngster needs backing for him to grow.
"Of course, he (Pant) might not have had the best of the matches, which is expected of him. But we can only make a player by backing somebody, so we are very confident that he will come out successful and this is our clear thought process, that post-2019 World Cup we are focussing on Rishabh Pant only."
Dhoni, who took a sabbatical after the ODI World Cup for the West Indies tour, continues to remain absent.
"Going into domestic cricket, getting his touch back or thoughts about retirement, everything is purely his personal decision. We've already laid the roadmap for future, I'm sure you can see in the way we are selecting the teams.
"We're moving on and giving opportunities to the youngsters and see that they establish themselves in the side and with Pant doing so well and Sanju Samson coming into the side, I am sure you must be understanding our thought process," he told to mediapersons.
With Pant elevating as the first choice wicket-keeper in limited-overs cricket, Sanju Samson is drafted into the squad as his cover. The Kerala batsman returns to the international side after more than four years.
"Samson comes in as a batsman who can keep wickets. I think four-five years ago he was there in the Indian T20 team and his problem was inconsistency. In the last one year or so, he has had a fantastic IPL, followed by a good domestic season and India A series against South Africa. And he had a very good Vijay Hazare as well. So, he is more consistent now and that is the reason behind drafting him into the squad," Prasad explained.
Another selection that made heads turn was Mumbai all-rounder Shivam Dube's maiden call-up into the international side. Dube has been seen as a like-for-like replacement for Hardik Pandya, who is recovering from a lower-back surgery that he underwent in London earlier this month.
"Earlier we had Hardik Pandya, then we also tried Vijay Shankar. All of us in unison, along with captain Rohit, we all felt that the role that he has to deliver, Shivam Dube fits in much better, because he really bats aggressively."
Dube, who was snapped up for a large sum of Rs 5 crore in the Indian Premier League auction by the Royal Challengers Bangalore, had a forgetful debut season. However, the hard-hitting all-rounder has performed exceedingly well in the domestic season along with his stint with India A in the Caribbean, where he won the Player of the Series award in the 'Test' series against West Indies A.
"His performances India A series in West Indies and also against South Africa A in 'ODIs' was phenomenal. I think he has grown in leaps and bounds with regard to his skill set and we are very much convinced about him," chief selector said.
With Indian team identifying talent for 2020 T20 World Cup, Dube comes into the squad with a huge reputation, that is only enhanced by his high strike rate of 142.35.
Chahal given another go, Thakur replaces injured Saini but no space for Jadeja
Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal who has been out of international action since the World Cup has been given another go as Prasad said they want to see how the 29-year-old progresses, while Thakur, who last played a T20I in the Nidahas Trophy in 2018, replaces fast bowler Navdeep Saini, who was unavailable owing to a minor injury.
Ravindra Jadeja who has roared back in the ODI team and has been raising his bar in the red-ball cricket, misses out a place in the shortest format. According to Prasad, Jadeja offers identical role that is played by Krunal Pandya.
Dinesh Karthik, who recently expressed that he was eyeing the role of finisher for the T20 World Cup in Australia, also seems to have fallen out of the race. Despite some noteworthy performances for Tamil Nadu in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, selectors want to give Pant and Samson a longer rope.
On the Test front
The chairman of selectors also announced the Test squad for the two-match series against Bangladesh. Captain Virat Kohli, who has been rested for T20I series, will play the red-ball leg of the series and the squad remains the same that was picked for the series against South Africa.
Left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav who injured his shoulder ahead of the third Test has been picked. Shahbaz Nadeem, who was drafted in as a late replacement, and made his debut in Ranchi will not be a part of the squad for the upcoming series. However, his performance didn't go unnoticed.
"The selection committee along with Virat, we were convinced by Nadeem's performances in domestic cricket and hence we drafted him into the squad when Kuldeep had his shoulder injury. With the opportunities that we have given Nadeem, he has really excelled, but the fact remains that you still have to go back to Kuldeep," Prasad said.
T20I squad: Rohit Sharma (c), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Sanju Samson (wk), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (wk), Washington Sundar, Krunal Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, Deepak Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, Shivam Dube, Shardul Thakur
Test squad: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant (wk)
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