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Selectors send out strong message by axing Raina and Ishant

Last updated on: February 11, 2014 20:31 IST

Selectors send out strong message by axing Raina and Ishant

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Suresh Raina can single-handedly destroy bowling attacks on the flat pitches at home, but appears be at all sea when playing abroad.

Besides an inconsistent showing last year, Ishant Sharma conceded 118 runs for two wickets in the 15 overs he bowled in the two matches he played against New Zealand in the just-concluded ODI series.

With the 50-overs World Cup, in Australia and New Zealand, coming up next year, the selectors, says Harish Kotian, were compelled to look for other options.

The Indian team's poor performances in South Africa and New Zealand were an eye opener for the selectors. With the 50-overs World Cup just a year away, the national selection panel, headed by Sandeep Patil, sent out a strong message by axing the experienced Suresh Raina and Ishant Sharma.

This is the time when teams generally look to give their players an extended run in order to assemble a well-settled combination for the World Cup. However, India's selectors, it seems, had enough.

What is loud and clear is that no longer can a player take his place in the side for granted. Reputation, or past showing, counts for nothing, and even the captain can't have the liberty of picking and choosing his favourites.

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Image: Suresh Raina (left), Ishant Sharma
Photographs: Getty Images

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Raina scored just one fifty in his last 24 innings

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Raina's axing had been coming for some time now. While he can single-handedly destroy bowling attacks on the flat pitches at home, the left-hander appears at all sea when playing abroad.

It is common knowledge around the world that Raina is susceptible against the short ball; it gets worse when he plays away, as was seen in South Africa and New Zealand.

The 27-year-old Uttar Pradesh batsman has scored just one fifty in his last 24 innings, and that came against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo last August!

Raina hasn't been able to devise a strategy to counter the short ball; his tendency to play reckless shots and throw away his wicket has only added to his frustration.

With the 50-overs World Cup, in Australia and New Zealand, coming up next year, the selectors were compelled to try out a batsman with better technique, capable of playing on lively pitches.

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Image: Suresh Raina is susceptible against the short ball
Photographs: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

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Ishant enjoyed a long rope despite inconsistent performances

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Ishant's plight is similar. He enjoyed a long rope despite inconsistent performances over the last year or so.

Indians fans will not easily forget that costly over, when he was hit for 30 runs by Australia's James Faulkner in Mohali last year. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, however, chose to overlook that showing and persisted with him.

In New Zealand, Ishant was again taken to the cleaners in the ODIs, hit for 118 runs, in the 15 overs he bowled in the two matches he played, while taking two wickets.

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Image: Ishant Sharma paid the price for inconsistent bowling
Photographs: Michael Steele/Getty Images

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Pujara has come a long way since starting out as a Test specialist

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The axing of these two players has opened up a couple of slots in the ODI team. Needless to say, there are quite a few players in the running for their places.

One is Cheteshwar Pujara. He had to wait a long time, but has come a long way since starting out as a Test specialist. He has scored 2947 runs in 68 List A matches, at an average of 54. If he finds his feet in ODIs, he will certainly become a key player for India in the shorter format of the game.

Interestingly, Pujara failed in his first outing in ODIs, scoring 13 and 0 against minnows Zimbabwe in August when India sent a depleted team for the five-match ODI series. But recent consistent performances in Tests, where he scored quite briskly, forced the selectors to give him another try in ODIs.

Maharashtra's Kedar Jadhav is another player who deserved to get a look-in, but was sadly ignored. He finished as the highest scorer in the Ranji Trophy, with 1223 runs in 11 matches, at an average of 87, and an amazing strike rate of 80.

The 28-year-old was also consistent in List A matches, scoring 1738 runs in 44 games, at an average of 51, and could have been considered for a position in the middle order.

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Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Photographs: Jason Oxenham/Getty Images

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Rayudu looked more assured than Raina at the crease

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With Raina out, Ambati Rayudu will benefit immensely and could command a regular place in the starting eleven. He played a couple of matches in New Zealand and scored only 37 and 20, but looked more assured than Raina at the crease.

In the bowling department, it was heartening to see speedster Varun Aaron retain his place.

He made a comeback to the squad for the New Zealand ODIs after a long injury lay-off and played the last three games in the just-concluded series. He proved a bit costly, but considering the good pace he is able to generate, the selectors decided to persist with him.

Stuart Binny, who also had a forgettable ODI debut in New Zealand -- he got just a single over to bowl -- gets another opportunity to justify his selection. If he can replicate the success he achieved for Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy, and Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League, the all-rounder will definitely be one for the long run.

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Image: Ambati Rayudu
Photographs: Phil Walter/Getty Images

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Mishra has been on the bench for eight straight ODIs

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Amit Mishra has been on the bench for eight straight ODIs. Despite Ravichandran Ashwin struggling with form, Dhoni did not even once consider trying out the leg-spinner. The selectors, though, did not budge and retained the Haryana bowler.

Ishwar Pandey suffered similar fate in New Zealand, watching the entire five-match ODI series from the sidelines. One only hopes the pacer will be accorded some respect in Bangladesh during the Asia Cup and get a game or two.

The Indian batting line-up will heave a sigh of relief to return to playing on flat pitches again during the upcoming tournament, in which they will be up against Pakistan, Bangaldesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

Openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan struggled big time in South Africa and New Zealand and will be keen to dominate the bowlers and get back among the runs.

Unless there is significant improvement with bat and ball over the next few months, Team India's chances of defending the World Cup looks bleak.

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Image: Amit Mishra
Photographs: Phil Walter/Getty Images

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