Chawla last played for India in 2008
Kiran More and Ajit Wadekar, both former chairmen of selectors, tells Manu Shankar that the 15-man squad named for the World Cup is the best possible combination for the quadrennial tournament to be staged in the subcontinent.
India's 15-member squad for the next month's cricket World Cup is out. And though a couple of players missed the bus by a whisker, some should consider themselves lucky to be on board.
Though daggers will be drawn against the selectors if the team fails to win the tournament, the inclusion of Piyush Chawla and exclusion of Rohit Sharma has certainly raised eyebrows.
To be fair to the selectors, Rohit never made the best of the limitless opportunities that came his way, while the others, like Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan and Virat Kohli, cemented their places with crucial knocks for the team.
And what about Chawla's inclusion? Yes, it was a surprise, as one would have expected to see Pragyan Ojha or Amit Mishra making the cut. Many will agree to the point that it's not the inclusion of a third spinner that is the bone of contention, but the choice of the spinner.
Chawla last played for India in 2008, against archrivals Pakistan in Karachi. Since then the only action he's been in the thick of is a Twenty20 against Zimbabwe, in June 2010, in Harare. The lack of match practice could well hurt Team India.
Image: Piyush Chawla
'This is the best possible winning combination'
Another issue, though not so glaring, is the selection of just one wicketkeeper.
But ask former players and they have no issues with the selection. It's a balanced side, they say.
Chairman of selectors Krishnamachari Srikkanth said it is the best possible combination for the quadrennial event.
"This is the best possible winning combination we have picked and it will win us the World Cup. We (selectors) engaged in thorough discussion at the meeting before finalising the squad. Taking into account all the conditions, like wickets, the opposition we will be playing, the selectors have chosen a very well-balanced team," he said after the announcement of the squad on Monday.
Former chairman of selectors Kiran More echoes Srikkanth's assessment.
"It's a balanced side. Given the circumstances, the selection of Piyush Chawla and R Ashwin is justified," he told rediff.com
"March-April will be the key time, as the pitches in India will be dry; so it will be spinner-friendly. Ashwin has been performing consistently in the domestic circuit, so he deserved a chance, while Chawla is the most-experienced spinner of the lot," he added.
Image: Team India celebrates after winning a match
'Rohit was unlucky to miss out'
Asked about the decision to pick just one wicketkeeper, More replied: "Wicketkeeper can been replaced. But having one extra wicketkeeper would have changed the complexion of the team."
He expressed anguish though about injuries some players are carrying at the moment, saying they need to be addressed more seriously.
"We have players who are not 100 per cent. Sachin (Tendulkar), Viru (Virender Sehwag), Gautam (Gambhir) and Praveen (Kumar) are all nursing injuries.
"Sachin, who is facing a chronic hamstring injury, can get worse, as these things keep coming up as and when you play a long innings. So that's a concern.
"If we have our players 100 per cent then we stand a good chance of winning the World Cup," he said.
On Rohit Sharma's exclusion, More felt the other youngsters in the team had established their places in team.
"Rohit was unlucky to miss out. But, then, others have cashed in on the chances that they got, while Rohit was inconsistent," he said.
Image: Rohit Sharma
'We have a tremendous batting line-up'
Former India captain, coach and chairman of selectors Ajit Wadekar also gave the selection the thumbs-up.
"We have a tremendous batting line-up. The team is a good mix of youth and experience," he told rediff.com.
But he was quick to point out that a left-arm spinner could have been included in the 15.
"I would have liked to see a left-arm spinner in that list. The pitches will be dry during that time and don't forget it's [the tournament] being played in India and Sri Lanka, where the pitches suit spinners more than pacers. But it's not a surprise to see three spinners in that list," he added.
Wadekar is of the opinion that Munaf Patel and Praveen Kumar have crucial roles to play, as they have the ability to entice batsmen into false strokes.
"They are crucial bowlers. They may not have the pace, but they bowl a tight line, which would help India in the tournament," he said.
Image: MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar
'Yusuf Pathan always had an edge over Rohit'
Dilip Vengsarkar, another former selection committee chairman, said Yusuf Pathan always had an edge over Rohit in making the squad because of his ability to change the complexion of a match.
"Rohit Sharma is a good player. But Yusuf Pathan can turn a match upside down. He's an explosive player," said the member of the 1983 World Cup-winning team.
Vengsarkar was also of the view that the spinners can play a crucial role in the middle overs, especially because the tournament is being played in March.
"Spinners can play a crucial role in the middle overs. But the result of the match could hinge on how the bowlers perform in the last five overs," he said.
Image: Yusuf Pathan