Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni naturally got a respite from Twenty 20 Nidahas Trophy series in Sri Lanka
For over a year now, the national cricket selectors have rested players in the shorter formats, mostly overworked bowlers and top-order batsmen. Players are rarely given a break from Test matches, unless they ask for it. Yet, at the back of the established players' mind there is always the fear of their replacement making it difficult for them to get back into the side, like Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have done to keep Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja out with some amazing performances.
Yadav and Chahal have shown their class overseas where in a country like South Africa the pitches are not conducive to their craft, but the two showed big heart by tossing the ball up to mesmerise the rival batsmen. Things are at such a phase where the selectors and the Indian team management have to assure Ashwin and Jadeja from time to time that the door is not slammed on them for the 2019 World Cup.
When the selectors chose the squad for the Twenty 20 Nidahas Trophy tri-series, starting on March 6, to celebrate the 70th Independence Day of Sri Lanka, Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni naturally got a respite from international cricket. Also, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya, who figured in all three formats in South Africa, deserve to go home and put their feet up before returning to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The other three, who were in all three squads – Rohit Sharma, who will captain the side in Sri Lanka, his opening partner Shikhar Dhawan and wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik, who joined the Test team for the third Test for the injured Wriddhiman Saha – continue to play.
As chief selector Mannava Sri Kanth Prasad said the rotation policy comes into play, keeping in view the workload of players and also the schedule up ahead. The selectors took great care in testing the bench strength, but why someone like Karnataka's Mayank Agarwal has not been given an opportunity despite his remarkable scoring sequence of 109, 84, 28, 102, 89, 140, 81 and 90 to help Karnataka win the Vijay Hazare Trophy, beating Saurashtra in the final in New Delhi on Tuesday. He has come through the ranks but his lack of consistency is held against him for too long. It's time he got another chance to prove himself.
There has been some consistency in picking the squads for different formats without disturbing the core on the tour of South Africa. Eight from the Test pack stayed back to see the team win the ODI series 5-1 and 13 from the ODI side were in the successful T-20 team that won the three-match series 2-1.
The most successful bowler in the Tests, Mohammad Shami (15 wickets from three Tests), had been ‘rested' on the tour by not playing him in the ODIs. He along with Jasprit Bumrah (14 from three Tests), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (10 from three Tests) and Ishant Sharma (eight from two Tests) returned with a record tally of 47 wickets out of the 60 wickets.The highest wicket-taker in ODIs, Kuldeep (17 wickets in six ODIs), has been rested for the Sri Lanka tour, though his spin partner Chahal, who had 16 wickets in the series, will be going to Sri Lanka.
Back in the fold are off-spinner Washington Sundar, who played one ODI (1/65) and a T20 (1/22) against Sri Lanka in December, fast bowlers Mohammad Siraj, who had two unforgettable T20Is against England (1/53) and New Zealand (1/45) and Vijay Shankar, who was brought into the Test squad against Sri Lanka last year when Bhuvneshwar Kumar left to get married, and young wicket-keeper batsman Rishab Pant, who played two T20Is, remaining 5 not out against England, and 38 against West Indies where India played the other two wicket-keepers, Dhoni and Karthik, also in the eleven.
Both Karthik and Pant can be tried as wicketkeepers but it is their batting that will determine if one of them can go to the World Cup as back-up for Dhoni, though Wriddhiman Saha would be pressing them hard as he will be hoping to get some big runs for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the upcoming IPL.
The selectors will also be having a close look at Baroda's hard-hitting batsman Deepak Hooda.The selectors have started looking at various permutations and combinations and they have already short-listed a pool of players and by the time they are through with the tour of Australia by the year-end they should have a well prepared World Cup squad.