By Nishad Pai Vaidya
A new-look Indian side is set to travel to England for the ICC Champions Trophy, 2013 and the big news is that Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh won’t feature on that trip. The Indian selectors have announced the 15-member squad for the tournament and it has a different make-up when compared to side that took on England during the home One-Day International (ODI) series earlier this year.
Here is India’s squad for the Champions Trophy: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c and wk), Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, R Vinay Kumar, Amit Mishra, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ishant Sharma.
Along with Gambhir and Yuvraj, Ashok Dinda, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Shami Ahmed have been given the boot (when compared to the squad for the England series). If the exclusion of Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan from the 30-man probables was surprising, the axing of Gambhir and Yuvraj from the final squad was unexpected.
Gambhir has been in patchy form for some time and people might say the call is fifty-fifty. Shikhar Dhawan’s cricketing stocks have soared tremendously since his brilliant hundred on Test debut. An injury ruled him out of a few games at the Indian Premier League (IPL), 2013 but has looked good since his return. He seems to be the replacement for Gambhir in the squad. However, Vijay’s call-up is a bit surprising although he was in fantastic touch during the Test series
During the series against England, India promoted Rohit to the opening slot and that move worked well. He had opened the batting for India during the ICC World T20 2009 in England and should be India’s choice for the role. As a result, Rahane lost out and finds himself on the bench yet again.
Yuvraj hasn’t enjoyed a very successful run since his return to the ODI setup late last year. However, he is a talismanic player and axing him from a big tournament is a huge gamble. He is one player who can rally the side single-handedly and inspire them with all-round performances. If one looks at India’s major successes in one-day cricket in the last decade, Yuvraj has the key to those victories. He deserved a longer run in the side as it isn’t that he hasn’t been in bad form. Even during the ongoing IPL, he has looked in touch and is striking the ball well.
Although India have Jadeja as the all-rounder and the extra bowling option, Yuvraj can also be handy with ball. He doesn’t turn the ball and looks innocuous, but can trouble the batsmen with a nagging length. They also succumb to the temptation of hitting him out of the park and he uses that aspect very well to trap his victims.
A very pertinent question is: If a Rohit can be given a long run despite repeated failures, why can’t a Yuvraj be persisted with? After all, he has a good one-day record and has won India numerous tournaments. Perhaps, the selectors wanted a back-up wicket-keeping option and named the in-form Karthik in the side.
Amit Mishra’s call-up is a very positive move. The leg-spinner has been in fantastic form in the IPL and hasn’t got his due at the highest level. This is a reward for his consistency. However, Ashwin would be the preferred spinner in the eleven, with Jadeja being the all-rounder. Teams wouldn’t be keen to play too many spinners in their line-ups in England.
A lot of the focus would be on fast-bowling as that department can exploit the conditions in England. Bhuvneshwar gets a chance to bowl in a setting that aids his strengths. Even on unhelpful tracks in India, he gets copious movement and one waits to watch him bowl in England. He would be India’s trump-card for the tournament. Irfan makes a comeback and he is the second swing-bowler in the side.
The return of Yadav is a huge boost as it adds a new dimension to the attack. His pace would be a handful and would be a sea change when compared to the other military medium options in the team. Vinay Kumar also makes a comeback and would be eager to carry his IPL form into that tournament. This is an opportunity for the seamers to impress as that has been a major Achilles Heel for India since the last World Cup.
On a whole, the squad seems to have balance and it has been picked with an eye on the next World Cup. The only problem would be picking the right combination as it is a completely different squad. Dhoni would hope that it doesn’t cause instability and that they are able to zero in on the perfect make-up ahead of their opening encounter.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/nishad_44