'If Rahul, Shreyas are not fit...': Ex-BCCI selector fires serious 'Tilak Varma' warning as Asia Cup talks fuel up
The former selector called for "patience" from the selectors and urged them to look at the bigger picture before picking the squad.
If about a fortnight back Ashwin had kicked off the discussion, then deemed as an out-of-the-box suggestion, experts and legends in Ravi Shastri have now considered Tilak Varma as a serious candidate for the Asia Cup, starting end of August. The 20-year-old, on the back of a stunning show in the recently-concluded T20I series in West Indies, has now been picked by a panel of former cricketers on Star Sports as among the 15 for the continental tournament despite no ODI experience to show. Amid the rush of praise for the left-handed batter, who indeed could add that variety to the Indian line-up and probably solve the middle-order woes as highlighted during the Caribbean tour, a former BCCI selector as issued a hard-hitting reminder to Ajit Agarkar-led incumbent selection committee of a 2021 T20 World Cup-like scenario as the discussion of Tilak's Asia Cup inclusion fuels up.
Recency bias has often affected India's team selection in recent times for multi-nation events. The rising request from veteran cricketers and the urge to reap the benefits of an in-form fresh face has resulted in proceedings going the other way as evident during the selections for 2019 ODI World Cup and the 2021 World T20. Close to the tournament in England four years back, India found a "3-D" player in Vijay Shankar which led to the selectors snubbing Ambati Rayudu. Shankar did make it to London, but never made a World Cup appearance. The all-rounder was never seen on international stage thereafter. Two years later, Varun Chakravarthy incurred the same. He was picked for the Sri Lanka tour close to the T20 World Cup before making the squad for the tournament in UAE. But after six appearances in the format across the two competitions, he was never picked for international cricket thereafter.
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Is there a fear that Tilak Varma could incur a Varun Chakravarthy-like fate?
In reply to a Hindustan Times query during a media interaction for Jio Cinema, Saba Karim agreed to it amid rising call from experts to include Tilak in the Asia Cup and World Cup squad and hence called for "patience" from the selectors and urged them to look at the bigger picture before picking the squad. He felt that selectors should first pick a group of 15 for the Asia Cup who is certain to make the World Cup before looking at back-up/stand-by options.
"Absolutely (on fear of Varun-Chakravarthy-like situation). I agree completely. You have to be extremely patient and have the larger picture in mind when picking the final 15/18 for the Asia Cup. But then again, Asia Cup could provide the perfect platform. The selectors would want to pick their best 15 who could then jolly well find themselves in the World Cup squad. So I would reckon pick the top 15 whom they see will play in the World Cup and then pick the two additional players, that will be the rule for Asia Cup. In case Iyer and Rahul are not fit then they will pick a wicketkeeper and middle-order batter and one more each for the two slots to keep the option in hand," he said.
In four innings for India in the T20I series, Tilak scored 173 runs with a fifty and an unbeaten 49. The youngster has risen into a force in T20 format, having shown his class in IPL for Mumbai Indians for the last two seasons where he has grown into a mainstay middle-order option. But ODI is a different format. And Suryakumar Yadav's 50-over numbers highlight that stark difference. Despite his exploits in the shortest format, where he is the No.1 batter as per ICC rankings, he has struggled to score a fifty over the last two years and has averaged less than 12 in nine innings this year.
However, Karim feels that while that fear stands as well, selectors always takes into consideration a player's domestic performance in the format as well. In 25 List A appearances, Tilak has scored 1236 runs at 56.18 with five centuries and as many fifties. He also has picked eight wickets in 11 innings with a best figure of 4 for 23.
"We often forget that players, whether Suryakumar or Tilak, do put in performances in domestic cricket in the one-day format for a long time. And if a player has performed well in the domestic circuit in the format, but doesn't have the experience on an international level, although has put in good scores in T20I cricket then they do have the attention of the selectors. So both these factors are taken into consideration. But if they only look at performances in T20 cricket and IPL to pick a player for the ODI team, then that is wrong," he added.
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