When India embark on their Champions Trophy campaign next month, it will show only three players from the World Cup-winning squad of 2011. Apart from skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the other two ‘survivors’ are Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina — making it quite clear that the selectors want to show that the blueprint for the 2015 World Cup is already in place.
No selection of squad for a high profile event in India has ever gone without its dose of criticism, and the scene is no different this time either.
A closer look at the 15-member squad, however, reveals it’s a job well done — barring a rather jarring blip in the case of Gautam Gambhir.
The decision to drop both Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh at one stroke, two of the most experienced batsmen in the ranks in the absence of Virender Sehwag and the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar can prove to be a really big gamble. Singh’s case, however, has merit because now that emotional quotient of seeing ‘Yuvi’ back in international cricket has been exhausted, one needs to take a long, hard look if he can cope with the physical demands of the game at the highest level till the next World Cup.
However, is there more to the axing of a senior player like Gambhir than just his so-called patchy form in the IPL? Going by the way he has been dropped from the Champions Trophy squad but included as one of the probables for the tri-series in the West Indies that follows gives the indication that the powers that-be are not done with his ‘disciplining’ job as yet.
It’s been barely six months since skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s complaint to the Indian board was leaked to the media — where Gambhir was labelled as ‘selfish’ and as someone who was playing to save his place in the Indian team. Over the past year or so, the relationship between Gambhir and Dhoni had reportedly turned frosty and the removal of former from the vice-captain’s post also did not help things. The man-management part of any captain’s job also includes handling the egos of their senior players but Dhoni seems to know of only one way of doing that — using his clout to show who’s the boss. In a game where statistics is the biggest benchmark for a player’s recognition (though the selectors seemed to have given somewhat undue importance to IPL performances this time), it would still be difficult to hand a berth to Murali Vijay ahead of Gambhir. Leave alone his experience and technique to survive the moving ball in English conditions in June, the captain of Kolkata Knight Riders is also among the top 10 scorers in IPL 6 at the moment with 320 runs. Compare that to Vijay, who before Sunday’s game, had managed a meagre 122 runs from nine matches.
It was, however, good to see Shikhar Dhawan making the cut while Dinesh Karthik’s good form in the IPL also sees him back in the big league after three years. An injury-free Umesh Yadav will also be a welcome addition to team’s bowling department which refreshingly hinges on pace — while the inclusion of Irfan Pathan, along with Ravinder Jadeja, covers the possible slots for the allrounders.