A case of talent over flamboyance
Performances in the Indian Premier League were considered, but they weren't the only criteria for selection, says Harish Kotian. The selectors chose to take into account last season's domestic performances too while selecting the 16-man squad that will take on the West Indies in five ODIs and a one-off Twenty20 match.
It was a case of talent over flamboyance as India's selectors picked a virtually second-string side for the ODI series in the West Indies.
Performances in the Indian Premier League were considered, but they weren't the only criteria for selection. The selectors chose to take into account last season's domestic performances too while selecting the 16-man squad that will take on the West Indies in five ODIs and a one-off Twenty20 match.
Ambati Rayudu, Rahul Sharma and Paul Valthaty, after good performances in the ongoing IPL, appeared hot favourites to make it to the squad but the selection committee was not convinced.
Of the aforementioned trio, Rayudu was unfortunate, as he has not only sparkled in the IPL with few good innings for Mumbai Indians, but also had a good domestic season for Baroda, aggregating 566 runs in nine innings, with a best of 200 not out.
The 25-year-old could have also served as the back-up wicketkeeper to Parthiv Patel, but selectors surprisingly preferred Bengal's Wriddhiman Saha ahead of him.
His team-mate Manoj Tiwary (525 runs in seven matches in Ranji Trophy), who had an equally impressive showing in the IPL, also failed to get the nod.
Image: Ambati Rayudu
'Rayudu will have to wait for his turn'
Former chairman of selectors Kiran More believes it would have been really tough for the current panel to include Rayudu in the squad ahead of Subramaniam Badrinath and Rohit Sharma who edged him out in the middle order batting slot. Besides, it would have been too much to ask him to keep wickets in 50-over cricket.
"There is healthy competition for places in the middle order. I think Rayudu will have to wait for his turn and, in the meanwhile, keep performing consistently in every form of cricket he plays," More told rediff.com.
"Rayudu is extremely talented and his time will come. I believe he has the talent to walk into the Indian team any time; he just has to be patient at the moment."
Former India batsman and manager Lalchand Rajput echoed More's views.
"Rayudu performed very well; he should have got a look in, but I believe it was a close call between Rohit, Badrinath and Rayudu for the middle order slot," said Rajput.
In such a scenario, the selectors had to leave out Rayudu, as the other two have scored more than him at the domestic cricket, and also deserve to get more opportunities at the international level.
But Rayudu need not worry; he has age on his side. If he keeps performing consistently, as he is, the selectors cannot overlook him for long.
"This season, playing for Mumbai Indians under Sachin Tendulkar, he has learnt a lot and it is reflecting in his performance. So, I am sure, he will make it to the Indian team pretty soon," added Rajput.
As a youngster, Rayudu looked destined for big things, especially after his exploits for the Indian Under-19 team in England in 2002. He also sparkled in the Ranji Trophy for Hyderabad that season, scoring a double century and a century in the match against Andhra Pradesh.
He then captained India's Under-19 team in 2004, when it made the semi-finals. But his slide started after a poor run in the 2004-05 season when he fell out with the Hyderabad Cricket Association and left for rivals Andhra before returning to Hyderabad after a season, where had an ugly spat with a team mate.
With no one to guide him, Rayudu made things worse for himself by succumbing to the lure of the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) and was banned by the BCCI. However, after two seasons with the ICL, he accepted BCCI's amnesty offer and returned to the fold with Hyderabad.
He continued to play flip-flop with Hyderabad though, as he dumped them after they were relegated, and joined Baroda, where he achieved great success. However, the stint with Mumbai Indians in the fourth edition of the IPL has seen him mature and rightly knock the doors of Team India.
Image: Ambati Rayudu
Gambhir's captaincy style is in contrast to Dhoni
With Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan getting a well-deserved rest, the selectors had to dig deep to find worthy replacements. This was to ensure that India would not be embarrassed in their first outing after winning the World Cup.
Piyush Chawla and S Sreesanth struggled in the World Cup and have also been ordinary in the IPL. Rightly, they were the only two casualties from the World Cup-winning squad, Ashish Nehra and Virender Sehwag being ruled out of the of the ODI series, beginning June 2, due to injuries.
Gautam Gambhir's elevation to captaincy shows which direction the selectors are looking at after Dhoni, while Suresh Raina's experience got him nod as vice-captain, ahead of Virat Kohli.
Gambhir's captaincy style is in contrast to Dhoni's ice-cool approach, as is being witnessed in the IPL. The left-hander's impatience on the field reminds so much of Sourav Ganguly, who was always in the players' ears, showed his displeasure at every lapse and, overall, made his passion clear.
The last time Gambhir captained India, the team registered a 5-0 whitewash of New Zealand at home. Now, he will be hoping to continue his good run at the helm.
Raina, who also captained India before in ODIs, will be looking to support Gambhir and play a major role in team selection and field placements.
Image: Gautam Gambhir
Badrinath's selection is heartening
Subramaniam Badrinath and Rohit Sharma have not only sparkled in the IPL, but their credentials were backed by a strong showing in the last domestic season.
The most heartening selection of all though is the return of Chennai batsman Badrinath. He's been in sizzling form over the past year, in all formats, be it Ranji Trophy or the Twenty20 format. He has played just two Tests and three ODIs.
The 30-year-old was unstoppable in last year's Ranji season and would have even given the late Don Bradman a run for his money had he being playing. He emerged the top scorer, aggregating a mammoth 922 runs from nine matches, averaging 131, with four hundreds and three half-centuries.
In this year's IPL too, he has proved his versatility, scoring 349 runs in 12 innings at an average of 87 and strike rate of 133. He is only batsman to hit five half-centuries in this year's tournament and played a key role in helping Chennai making it to the last four after a difficult start.
Image: Subramaniam Badrinath
Rohit looks desperate to leave a lasting mark
The same holds for Rohit, considered as one of the most stylish and talented young batsmen in the country.
Shane Warne, in a recent interview, made the perfect assessment of the Mumbai batsman. 'Rohit Sharma has got all the talent in the world; if he could just get his mind right and get his attitude right,' said the Australian spin legend.
The 24-year-old batsman was second best in the Ranji Trophy after Badrinath, scoring 732 runs in six innings, at an average of 122.
He made it to the Indian team a few times earlier, but problems with fitness and focus hurt him. This time though he looks desperate to leave a lasting mark at the international level.
Image: Rohit Sharma
Vinay has improved vastly in the past year
Vinay Kumar was unlucky when selected earlier. He got just two opportunities when he was picked for the series against Zimbabwe and Australia, but has improved vastly in the past year or so and become one of the craftiest bowlers in limited-overs' cricket.
He took 19 wickets in six matches in the Ranji Trophy last season and is one of Kochi Tuskers Kerala's top bowlers in the IPL, claiming 12 wickets in 11 games.
Ishant Sharma, though, should consider himself lucky to make it. He was dropped after an indifferent showing in the Test series in South Africa and primarily considered fit for only the longer version of the game. But a few good spells in the IPL (9 wickets in 10 games), coupled with the dearth of fast bowlers, meant he is back in the reckoning.
Image: Vinay Kumar
Mishra preferred ahead of Chawla
In the battle of leg spinners, Amit Mishra was preferred ahead of Punjab's uncapped Rahul Sharma, with Chawla getting the boot after a poor World Cup and IPL.
Yusuf Pathan continues to retain his place because of a few good all-round performances for Kolkata Knight Riders, despite not being in the best batting form in the tournament.
Praveen Kumar, unlucky to miss out on the World Cup with an injury, is a welcome inclusion. He will certainly prove a handful for the inexperienced Windies batsmen on the slow pitches of the Caribbean.
In sum, the tour provides the youngsters in the squad a chance to prove their worth. The West Indies were beaten 3-2 by Pakistan in the just-concluded ODI series. With a busy international schedule ahead for Team India, a good showing in the Caribbean will go a long way in enhancing their careers.
Image: Praveen Kumar