Yesterday’s big cricketing news was Team India naming its squad for its defence of the Champions Trophy title in the 2017 tourney. It is more or less a settled side, and as the administrators quoted earlier, naming the squad was a mere formality, owing to the fact that most players picked themselves by virtue of the previous series. The deadline of submitting the squad was April 25, 2017. But this delay of naming the squad (due to the dispute between the BCCI and the ICC over revenue sharing and the governance model), coupled with some interesting performances in the Indian Premier League (IPL) raised speculation that the performers stood a chance to gain by featuring in the squad over some of the regular names.
In the IPL, Gautam Gambhir and Rishabh Pant, among others, have had an amazing run so far. Gambhir has been scoring runs at will and features in the top five run-getters in this edition, apart from leading the side well to be among the top four in the points table. Pant, on the other hand, has revelled in the dynamic way of playing that he’s known for and displayed throughout the successful domestic season. The sample size to measure these performances isn’t too small either, considering that the IPL is nearing its business end. So needless to say, there were many rooting for these two to make it to the Indian squad for the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. But the selectors felt otherwise. They stuck with the tried and tested combinations.
It’s the Australian way to strike while the iron is hot. There are numerous instances where the Australian selectors have given prominence to performances over regular presence or age or just names, most recent being names like Billy Stanlake and Jhye Richardson, who were picked to play T20s for Australia based on their exploits in the Big Bash League. This is just one of the many bold moves that the Aussie selectors make. To each his own though.
This is not even remotely to suggest that the Indian selectors have treaded the path of erring in not selecting the performers in the IPL. But there are two main points to support the Indian selectors: 1. IPL is T20 cricket, and not always can a T20 performance be a benchmark for ODI cricket. 2. The Indian style of selection has always been different, there has neither been a whiplash reaction to non-performing players, nor have performers almost immediately been lauded with promotion in the form of a berth in the India squad. Moreover, there was never a reason to tinker with the squad that has been producing favourable results for the past few series, to say the least.
In fact, there isn’t really a player whose place a certain Gambhir or a Pant could take. There are three openers, the middle order is strong and settled, the finishing part is being taken care by Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey and Hardik Pandya. As MSK Prasad, the chief selector put it, MS Dhoni is the best wicketkeeper in the world right now; so thinking that he needs a replacement is like closing one’s eyes to the sunlight and claiming that it is night! And the bowling combinations are well set, too. Yes, maybe the requirement of an extra spinner could be debated but there are enough part timers in the squad to fulfill that non-existent void.
One more refreshing change seen this time was the chief selector openly talking about the selection process with respect to players discussed and the thought process put behind selecting or not selecting a particular player. This comes like a breath of fresh air from a committee, albeit with different people at the helm earlier, which used to treat these selection meetings like a national level secret and plainly refused to interact with the media and give the fans an insight about the way they went about with what they did.
So, all in all, in my opinion this Indian side looks well on course to defend its Champions Trophy title and compete with the best. The Champions Trophy 2017, surely, promises to be an exciting tournament – the mini World Cup as it is touted to be – and the evenly matched sides would just make an awesome viewing of the bat vs ball game. I am looking forward to this tussle between the champions, are you?
Wouldn’t we, as fans of Indian cricket, love to see a repeat of this?