Aus v Ind MSK Prasad

Published on October 27th, 2018 | by Prasenjit Dey

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Where’s the ‘Process’ in MSK Prasad & Co.’s selection process?

🕓 Reading time: 6 minutes

“With the announcement of multiple squads for a number of upcoming series, in the late hours of Friday night, it became clear that we can call the Indian selectors’ selection process anything but a process” 

“Players need to understand that there is a process we follow while selecting the team.”

This is what chief selector MSK Prasad had said in order to explain why Kedar Jadhav was not in the squad for the last three ODIs against the West Indies. He indicated that there is a clear-cut and concise process they follow while selecting the team, and Jadhav’s injury prone nature, even though he was declared fit to play, was the main reason why they excluded him from the squad.

However, 20 hours later, with the announcement of multiple squads for a number of upcoming series, in the late hours of Friday night, it became clear that we can call their selection strategy anything but a process.

The selection panel had been mostly good with their decisions during the initial part of their tenure. With time, they started taking some harsh calls, which in turn became unfair on part of some players. There was always the chance to set the precedent right, once again, with the upcoming squad announcements. But they haven’t rectified any of their mistakes, and their actions and decisions have only taken a further downward spiral.

Friday night’s multiple squad announcement unveiled confusing decisions like Jadhav’s addition to the squad for the fourth and fifth ODIs against the Windies, MS Dhoni’s absence from the T20I squad, Hardik Pandya’s exclusion from the squad to tour Australia, Rohit Sharma’s inclusion in it, Murali Vijay’s recall and most importantly, sending Mayank Agarwal back to grinding his way at the India ‘A’ and domestic level.

Jadhav’s inclusion, among all of those decisions, was the most shocking. How could a player, whom they deemed to be ineligible for selection 20 hours ago, suddenly become eligible?

“We did not pick Kedar because of his history of fitness,” Prasad was quoted as saying by PTI, while announcing the team for the final three ODIs against West Indies on October 25.

“There have been occasions earlier when he has come back fit and then broke down, a case in point being the Asia Cup last month,” he had clarified.

He had also mentioned that it was necessary for Jadhav to prove his fitness by playing in two games at the domestic level for being eligible for selection. However, he didn’t get the chance to do so as his team was eliminated in the virtual semi-final of the Deodhar Trophy between India A and India C, and hence there was no chance he was going to make his way back into the Indian team for this series.

But what changed after 20 hours that suddenly made the selectors think he is eligible to be there in the squad? Was there any external pressure? Was there any internal conflict of interests? Who knows! This sudden change in the decision only shows how capricious their decisions are and puts them in a pretty bad light as a selection panel.

Also read: India’s squad selection for Australia leaves certain questions unanswered

That is not the end of it. There is more to their selection woes. Mayank Agarwal, who has been scoring runs consistently since last year, across formats, has been dropped from the squad to tour Australia without even being given an opportunity to play in the series against West Indies, despite being there in the squad. He has suffered a similar fate to that of his Karnataka skipper, Karun Nair.

The decision leads to confusion here too. “I told him that we cannot have an extended squad at home and keep him waiting for his opportunity to play in the XI, and that too in a two-Test series. Rather, it makes sense to play in domestic competitions and score runs there consistently,” Prasad had claimed to have told this to Karun Nair, after he was dropped from the squad for the series against West Indies at home, in an interview with The Indian Express.

So, why didn’t the same thing apply to Agarwal as well? Why was he picked in the squad for the West Indies series when chances of him getting a game in the series were as low as that of Nair too? And he has been in even better form than anyone else to deserve a place in the Indian squad. So, how are they going to justify Agarwal’s exclusion?

Let’s talk about Hardik Pandya now. He had suffered a serious injury to his lower back recently. But he has recovered now and eligible for selection. However, to everyone’s surprise, he wasn’t there in any of the squads except in that of the List A squad for the New Zealand-A series. Prasad’s clarification here was, “Hardik Pandya has not fully recovered for Tests.” That means he hasn’t fully recovered for anything yet. Then, what was the necessity of playing him in the NZ-A series when that stint might only aggravate his injury and hinder his healing process? Back injuries are not something that should be taken lightly.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah’s addition to the ODI and T20I squads, which sums up to 6 matches, before the Australia series, doesn’t make sense at all. Why would you want to expose your main bowlers to the risk picking up injuries before such an important tour? This sums up quite well how horrible their decision making has been in recent times.

Moreover, for some reason, they have invested their faith once again in Rohit Sharma. He hasn’t played any first-class game in the last six months or so. Yet he is there in the squad, ahead of the likes of Nair and Agarwal. Prasad cited the reason behind his inclusion to be more because of technical factors. “Rohit’s nature of play, a very good back-foot player, is suited for Australia.”  However, as we have seen in South Africa, he has many other weaknesses against red cherry, which can lead to his failure once again.

Also read: Interview: Mayank Agarwal and a month to remember

Murali Vijay’s inclusion is probably fair considering he regained his form back during the county stint after a horrific tour of England. Prasad went on saying the same and it is true considering Vijay’s experience in Australia. But again, there is a difference in opinion between two different sections of the cricketing fraternity. Some believe that he isn’t the same player that he used to be, and probably, it would have been better to give Agarwal an opportunity ahead of him. On the other hand, another section believes that his experience his going to be crucial despite his recent struggles. Only time will tell.

The only decision that appeared to be legitimate, fair and pending for a long time was dropping MS Dhoni from the T20I squads for both series against West Indies and Australia. He hasn’t been able to perform well in T20Is for a long time and it is good to see that the selectors are finally looking beyond him, in order to make a squad for the future. This could have really been called a bold move. However, Prasad spoilt it himself with an utterly stupid and unacceptable logic.

“Dhoni’s not going to play the 6 T20Is because we’re looking at the second keeper slot. It is not the end of Dhoni in T20Is.”

The reasoning could have really been better off without the last sentence.

Then there is Faiz Fazal as well, who has done almost waited for an eternity for an Indian team call-up, despite churning up runs like a run-machine in the domestic circuit over the years. His brief stint with the ODI side in Zimbabwe, a couple of years back, is all he has to his name. His tweet “My life is defined as Work Hard -Play Ranji trophy – PERFORM- Repeat…..” probably sums up his mental state right now.

Amongst all this chaos and confusion, Krunal Pandya’s call-up to the T20I squad for both West Indies and Australia series is a silver lining. He deserves a berth in the World Cup squad too, and the selectors need to do more than just giving him a chance to play in the T20Is.

Although they are also doing a pretty good job with the ever-growing fast bowling pool, which has seen the inclusion of Rajneesh Gurbani, Mohammad Siraj and Navdeep Saini in at least one of the squads announced, most of their horrendous decisions in recent times are outweighing few of the good decisions that they have taken.

It remains to be seen if the selectors can come up with good decisions in the near future. As of now, they don’t seem to have a proper direction and process.

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About the Author

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Prasenjit Dey is a freelance cricket journalist based out of Kolkata. Cricket runs through his veins and writing has always been his passion. He is now a part of both worlds, trying to make a difference by writing on the nitty-gritties of the game.



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