Yardstick unclear amid surprise picks

Murali VijayMurali Vijay will have a lot to prove in the Champions Trophy. Among the 15 members picked by the selectors on Saturday, the opener will be the one under most scrutiny.

The Tamil Nadu batsman doesn't have a great record in the 50-over format, averaging a measly 17.82 in 11 ODIs, and his current form is patchy - he averages around 17 in the T20 league and had to sit out the last three games.

Hence, it's natural for critics to infer that Chennai Super Kings players get a preferential treatment, especially when one is preferred over established names like Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh.

The situation is complicated for there is no clarity on what basis the Sandeep Patil-led committee selected the squad. With Gambhir, his old form with the India team seems to be the criterion while it appears Yuvraj has lost out because of his below-par show in the league.

Different Format

For Vijay, it is his Test form that's been considered. The 29-year-old hit back-to-back hundreds against Australia. The selection committee's defence could well be that for the Tests too selection was done in the same manner - potential rather than runs in domestic cricket was considered.

In Vijay's defence, his new approach curbing aggression at the start of the innings could be effective in seaming conditions in England.

This will be the last edition of the Champions Trophy. It was in the first edition in 2000 that Yuvraj had announced his arrival in stunning style.

Since then, for sheer match-winning ability in limited-overs cricket, no one can hold a candle to the Punjab all-rounder.

He proved it at the biggest stage of all at the 2011 World Cup. And if one has to debate his current form and fitness, he has played eight ODIs since the big night of April 2 two years ago - scored in four and missed out in four.

His outings in the last series against England read 61, 32, 30, 3 and 0. He also gives the captain an extra bowling option with his left-arm spin. However, in the domestic T20 league, he has missed a few games due to injuries and has slowed down in the field.

T20 vision

Some of the players have been picked largely on their eye-catching performances in the T20 event with Dinesh Karthik and Amit Mishra being the chief beneficiaries. But, then Gambhir has a strong case too.

The Kolkata Knight Riders skipper's team has flopped, but the left-handed batsman has been among runs.

Also, while his Test form was patchy, in ODIs he has not done badly.

For convenience, we can merely look at his below-par showing in the recent England and Pakistan series at home, but in four innings before that the sequence reads 88, 0, 102 and 65.

The other departments are well-balanced with focus on pace.

If the batting clicks, in helpful conditions Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma will provide a formidable strike-force given that they have struck a good rhythm.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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