The National selectors sprung a major surprise on Monday, naming Rahul Dravid in a 30-man probables list for September’s ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa. Dravid last played an ODI for India against Australia in October 2007.
While chairman of selectors K Srikkanth said he would not be commenting on any aspect of the selection, HT has learnt that Dravid’s return was paved by the inexperienced top-order’s inability to deal with short-pitched bowling and the moving ball. Given that the Champions Trophy will be played in South Africa starting September 24, in early summer, where conditions are expected to favour seam bowlers, Dravid was picked with the pivotal No. 3 position in mind. The selectors also kept in mind the fact that Virender Sehwag, currently recovering from shoulder surgery, may not be available for the tournament.
Dravid, who averages nearly 40 from 33 ODIs, and is only one of three Indians to score 10,000 runs in the format, had a strong IPL for Royal Challengers Bangalore where he scored 271 runs at a strike-rate of 115.81. Having hand-picked a senior player like Dravid - he turned 36 in January this year - out of the blue, it is difficult to see the selectors now leaving him out of a pruned squad of 15, which will be announced closer to the tournament.
The five-man selection panel also decided there was no place for all-rounder Irfan Pathan, who was in the mix as recently as the Twenty20 World Cup in England. Pathan has struggled with the ball in the recent past, his last 15 ODIs only yielding 18 wickets at an average of 43.22 and an economy rate of more than 6 an over. However, for him not to find a place in the preliminary squad of 30 is a surprise.
Another notable omission was medium pacer S. Sreesanth, who has been attempting to stage a comeback after a series of injuries. Lakshmipathy Balaji, who was in the squad for the Tests against New Zealand, has also been ignored.
There was an elevation for Uttar Pradesh seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar who impressed on several occasions last season, most memorably when he dismissed Sachin Tendulkar for his first-ever first class duck in India in the semifinals of the Ranji Trophy.