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India’s ODI squad for England 2014: Is Cheteshwar Pujara, Robin Uthappa’s exclusion justified?

Robin Uthappa has not been included in India ODI squad for series against England © Getty Images
Robin Uthappa has not been included in India ODI squad for series against England © Getty Images

As Indian selectors picked the squad for England with an eye on ICC World Cup 2015, they perhaps sidelined a few key players who could have made a big difference in the longer run. Abhijit Banare looks at Cheteshwar Pujara and Robin Uthappa’s exclusion from the One-Day International(ODI) team.

Two players with contrasting styles have missed the bus for the ODI team for England. An aggressive Robin Uthappa is already out of favour after a stunning run in the Indian Premier League 7 and Cheteshwar Pujara, perhaps for being too cautious to be a 50-over player (yes we have heard this before regarding Rahul Dravid too).

A certain opening combination keeps Uthappa out?: When he was included for the Bangladesh tour, there was a feeling of assurance that Uthappa version 2.0 was here to stay for long. However, the performance in the Quadrangular in Australia has hurt his chances again. It’s interesting to see him excluded because India are already facing issues at the top as Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan are yet to get going since the sizzling start in the Champions Trophy 2013. In such a situation, the aggression and maturity of Uthappa was always going to be a plus. 660 in 16 innings is something special even if it came in T20s and Uthappa certainly deserved a longer run.

The chance for Uthappa might arise in case Dhawan fails to flatter in the 50-over format as well. Then it would be interesting to see whether the selectors call him back or experiement with Ajinkya Rahane at the top. Opening up a space in the middle-order. With the opening slot still uncertain, it’s more surprising to see Uthappa’s exclusion than that of Pujara because the middle-order looks more or less solid.

No space in the middle-order for Pujara: For long, India possessed a solid middle-order with Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni. The moment Yuvraj went terribly out of form and Raina showed his flaw against short balls, a vaccum was created for India to experiement. One player who managed to sneak in time is Ajinkya Rahane. The Mumbai batsman played some gritty knocks in the longest format and showed enough fluency to settle in to the No 4 positon which India wanted to groom Raina for.

With Raina back in the ODI squad, the selectors have restored faith in him to do well and seem confident to include him for the World Cup. Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane and MS Dhoni follwoed by Ravindra Jadeja are the likely formation. Under such circumstances, it’s unlikely for Pujara to get enough opportunities in the run-up to the World Cup.  The tricky pitches in Bangladesh and his slow innings only put him out of contention.

With the inclusion of Sanju Samson at the back of good scores in Australia, the selectors have gone in with performance over reputation. Pujara, with  his technique is someone who can add solidity to the middle-order in ODIs but that dream would have to wait. The only window of opportunity is a poor performance by either Raina or Rahane.

The overall squad does send out a rough sketch of how the World Cup squad would look like. Based on the performance in England, the selectors would look to persist with the combination in the series ahead.

Catch all the coverage of India’s tour to England here

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)

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