There is often a ritualistic value attached to the selection of a national cricket team. Most of the players select themselves and it is just one or two places that are up for grabs and generate discussion.
The first thing the Indian selectors did today was to scotch all rumours that they are thinking of replacing Mahendra Singh Dhoni as India’s ODI captain for the time being. There is a school of thought, and that includes this writer as well, that Virat Kohli should now be made captain across all formats. It does not make much sense to delay the inevitable, as Dhoni is unlikely to be around when the 2019 World Cup comes. Pragmatism demands that Kohli be given enough time and space to mature as a skipper and be allowed to build his own team for the future.
South Africa is going to pose a major challenge even though India are playing at home, hence it would have been the right time to let Kohli impose his thought and philosophy on the one-day squad as well. One can understand that the selectors will find it difficult to remove Dhoni from the captaincy, given the wicketkeeper batsman’s outstanding contribution to Indian cricket. Possibly, the T-20 World Cup being held in India next year, would be a fitting swan song for a man who probably will go down in cricket history as one of its finest one-day player and captain.
As far as the team goes, there are not any surprises, as most of the names chosen select themselves. The wisest thing they have done is not to have Ishant Sharma, prone to injuries, in the squad. Though he will miss the first Test against South Africa, that too in conditions that are helpful for seam bowlers in Mohali, Ishant needs to be preserved for the Tests, so that he can unleash his match-winning spells more often than he has done in the past. As it is, most of the Indian pacers, given the kind of work-load they have to take, are prone to injuries and the selectors will have to be careful and rotate among the pool of pacers India has at the moment.
Any newcomer, especially one who has brilliant performances to his credit, is a welcome addition and who knows, in Punjab’s Gurkeerat Singh, India may discover a genuine spinning all-rounder. Amit Mishra, the leg-spinner, whose bowling against Sri Lanka in the Test matches was noteworthy, is back. There is always a temptation to include a leg-spinner in the squad, especially if the tracks are spin friendly and the batsmen more often than not always struggle against a quality wrist spinner.
I find it a bit surprising that the Indian selectors are still pinning their faith on Harbhajan Singh. It was obvious to most while watching him bowl in Sri Lanka, that he is a ghost of his former self. Mercifully, he is not in the one-day squad and probably his experience and the hope that he will be miserly, has got him a nod for the T-20 squad.