India skipper MS Dhoni will not be in the frame of the Test squad beyond the next 16-18 months. This was a consensus decision of the five-member Hindustan Times selection panel that picked the squads for the future.
“Let's accept that Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are past their prime. And in Gambhir's case, he is vulnerable in the slip cordon,” declared Bishan Singh Bedi, the senior-most former India player in the committee that picked the Test and ODI squads.
The panel was almost unanimous in picking Dhoni to lead the one-day side in the 2015 World Cup and beyond, but felt going forward Virat Kohli was the best candidate for the job in Tests.
In fact, K Srikkanth felt since they were future teams, Dhoni could be removed from the ODI side as well, which led to a major debate over how futuristic the team for the future should be? “We can't be half-baked futuristic,” declared Srikkanth, the chief selector until late last year.
In ODIs, though, Dhoni found the backing of all but one selector. “Dhoni is perhaps at best delivering the goods in ODIs and leading the side. He would guide the younger lot better,” was the majority view.
The debate over the openers was intense before Abhinav Mukund and Murali Vijay, with Shikhar Dhawan as standby, were selected for the Test side. “Keep in mind their age,” said Bedi, as he along with Madan Lal and Ashok Malhotra, who's a cricket expert with Sahara, backed the Tamil Nadu left-hander.
The panel, which included former chief selector and India stumper Kiran More, agreed that Wriddhiman Saha was the best wicketkeeper and had no hesitation in picking him as the Test gloveman. The big surprise in the one-day squad was the absence of Yuvraj Singh as well as Gambhir, while Ishant Sharma was chosen only to play Test cricket. “Ishant still can't bowl in the death overs,” was what Malhotra and Bedi said.
On Yuvraj, who made a remarkable comeback after cancer treatment, the selectors felt he was getting slow on the field and will become a liability in two seasons.
Ravichandran Ashwin is part of both squads but the selectors were critical of his current bowling form and poor fielding skills.
Bedi said: “Ashwin has to be made to believe that he is a Test bowler. He is confused, he doesn't know whether he is a Test or ODI bowler.”
Bedi praised Jammu and Kashmir all-rounder Parvez Rasool's off-spin. “I look for technical correctness and he has it,” he said of the bowler who took seven wickets in the two-day warm-up tie against the Aussies.
Praise for Pujara
One interesting choice was Cheteshwar Pujara as ODI opener. “He gives solidity. Others all try to hit over the top. Nobody plays the second line,” said Malhotra, who pointed out that batsmen need to show patience and play late in seaming conditions.
As each player was discussed, there were heated arguments. “I won't touch Ojha. I would put more emphasis on Ravindra Jadeja,” said Bedi. “His bowling can be improved but that is not the case with Ojha.”
Madan Lal said: “I'll go for Ojha, Jadeja I can understand in one-day cricket.”
In the end, only 15 could be picked, but many who did well in domestic cricket were discussed at length.