India’s selectors gave a hint of things to come for the national team that’s going through one of its poorest runs in international cricket. Senior batsman and one of the mainstays of the team in all formats, Virender Sehwag was dropped from the ODI squad for the first three ODIs against England beginning January 11. [See the series schedule]
India had been persisting with their jaded, out-of-form veterans while denying opportunities to young players in prime fitness and form. Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement and Sehwag’s axing has signalled that the status quo would change albeit through one adjustment at a time.
Coming into the squad at Sehwag’s expense is India’s new broad-blade in the classical mould, Cheteshwar Pujara. The 24-year-old scored a stunning double hundred against Madhya Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy, with his last 50 coming in a mere 17 balls.
Pujara is known more for his ability to play the long knock, something India desperately needs at the top of their batting order. In the three ODIs against Pakistan, they had starts of 29-5, 103-6 and 111-6. In the last two games, they were bowled out in the 160s.
Since his comeback from a shoulder surgery in 2011, Sehwag has produced one ODI innings of note – his 219 against the West Indies. After that innings, he has passed fifty just once in 11 innings.
Interestingly, the Sandeep Patil has also retained Rohit Sharma, who has had a horror run in limited overs cricket. He made 2, 4* and 4 in the three outings against Pakistan. His last five ODI innings read 0, 0, 4, 4 and 4.
He has been persisted with, as has been Gautam Gambhir who failed to come to tackle the probing Pakistani pace attack. Against Pakistan, Gambhir made scores of 8, 11 and 15 in the ODIs and 43 and 21 in the T20s.
One thing that will be tough to change is MS Dhoni’s captaincy. After helping the team scale unprecedented heights in the distant past, Dhoni has presided over three of their gravest Test series defeats against England and Australia, and then in the ODIs against Pakistan at home.
One thing going for Dhoni is his fine form with the bat. Since the World Cup win, Dhoni averages a Bradmanesque 88.50 in 28 innings, making 1062 runs. In the first ODI against Pakistan, he produced one of his top knocks, making an unbeaten 113 when it looked like India will fold for less than a hundred runs.
Squad: MS Dhoni (C/WK), Ajinkya Rahane, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami Ahmed, Amit Mishra.