With India’s second favorite opponent pulling out of the tour due to payment disputes with their board, it was obviously time for India’s first favorite opponent—a team that has played India so often that fans from both countries wince at the mention of another match. West Indies is out, after 4 ODIs (trailing 1-2), and Sri Lanka is in.
BCCI has not let the Windies off without a knock on the wrists though. This could be a blessing in disguise for any self-respecting cricket fan. India is not allowed to tour the West Indies in the near future—which means the team will have to play stronger and worthier opponents instead. The BCCI’s audacity has been exposed again though, with them roping in the always-ready Lankans to play an absolutely redundant bilateral ODI series. They will be stronger opponents, but way too familiar.
Nevertheless, a squad has been chosen.
SQUAD: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayadu, Wriddhiman Saha, Ashwin, Jadeja, Shami, Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Murali Vijay, Varun Aaron, Akshar Patel.
India’s ODI home season has now been extended to 9 ODIs (including the Windies non-series), and captain MS Dhoni has finally been given a break for the first 3 ODIs.
The other changes are ridiculous, to say the least, by a management that is all at shore about the youngsters they are zoning in on for the World Cup. While many can argue that bench-players who don’t get opportunities to take the field on a tour have no use being bench-players forever (ask Manoj Tiwary), dropping youngsters after selecting them in a squad, without even playing them, can do damage to their confidence.
One such example is Sanju Samson, who has been dropped after being second-choice keeper for the England tour when Saha was injured. With Saha back, Samson is out without playing a match.
Bhuvi has been rested too, and the fiery Aaron replaces him.
Kohli, fresh from a long-due century, is Captain of a side who will depend mainly on Raina’s pyrotechnics in the middle order. Rayadu continues to retain his place due to the absence of Rohit Sharma—who will be given an India-A game to test his fitness, on basis of which he will play the last two ODIs. The management seems confused about Rohit’s new batting position though, with Rahane not doing full justice to his potential at the top, and Dhawan continuing a rocky patch of form. Saha could be tested at the top too, if Dhawan fails again.
Rohit could just come back in the middle order, and might replace Rayadu for the World Cup.
Impressive youngster Akshar Patel retains his place, and will make Ashwin and Jadeja nervous for their places in the side. Patel is a genuine spinner with great loop and height, and could be the answer to Ashwin and Jadeja’s inconsistency.
India will have a fight on their hands against the high-on-confidence T20 World Champs in the ODI series. It won’t be easy.
But who will be watching?