2017 gave us confidence to beat anyone, says Indian chief selector MSK Prasad
Chief selector MSK talks to mid-day about India's almost-unbeaten year in international cricket
The year 2017 has been a Tour de Force for the Indian team after their unbeaten run in bilateral series and winning 37 matches across all formats, the second most by an international side after Australia (38). Indian team's superlative performance this year was a result of a synchronised effort from the backroom staff, team management and the three-member selection committee. mid-day caught up with selection committee chief MSK Prasad in Mumbai for an insight on the fabulous year when he was in the city for a selection committee meeting recently.
The Indian team celebrate their T20I series victory against Sri Lanka after the final match at Wankhede Stadium on Sunday. Pic/PTI
How satisfying has 2017 been?
From a selectorial perspective, it has been fantastic because whichever youngsters we inducted, did really well. Since the team is doing well, we felt that it is an appropriate time to groom youngsters. By God's grace, the youngsters we inducted like Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jayant Yadav, Karun Nair did really well for which the selection committee is really happy. Also, we were glad about Hardik Pandya's transformation from limited overs cricket to Test ranks.
What are the biggest takeaways?
The team has been unbeaten (in bilateral series) during the entire year, which is a big credit to the players, the captain and team management and maybe to the selection committee too (laughs). Becoming No.1 in Tests was also a wonderful thing that happened along with the No.2 ranking in ODIs and T20Is. These stats show that we have done fairly well. The most important thing is that, 2017 provided this team confidence that they can beat anybody. This is the confidence they will take into 2018 when they play in South Africa, England and Australia. The year gave us the belief and confidence that we can perform in top gear throughout.
Is the nucleus of the team in place for the 2019 World Cup?
We have been giving opportunities to quite a few youngsters. I think we will have to see how the youngsters perform in the South Africa series. We then play in England. But we still have six ODIs and three T20Is against South Africa. We also have the Nidahas Cup coming up after that (tri-series in Sri Lanka). After that, probably, we will have to see how it goes and close-in on the nucleus of the team (for the 2019 World Cup).
Is the middle order still a concern in limited overs cricket?
I don't see any concern. We have got enough strength in the middle order, but we are trying out different options. We have absolutely no concerns whatsoever.
It must be heartening to see that almost all youngsters you've picked have done well…
Karun Nair has done extremely well. It is really unfortunate that a guy like Karun, who got a triple hundred, is waiting for his chance. This shows that we have good bench strength. There is some shuffling happening in the middle order, but we have got enough strength. We are trying out the best combination from resources that are available.
What was the thinking behind giving so many chances to youngsters?
I am a management student. I know how certain countries have struggled during this transition period. Take the case of Sri Lanka… after those top guys retired, they had this problem. Suddenly, they are looking like an ordinary side although they are a very good side. We never wanted this to happen [to Indian cricket]. We should be able to have at least two wonderful teams in any format.
So, for each slot we need to have enough back-up. We firmly believe in preparing a succession chart. If one top player suffers an injury or niggle at the last moment, we cannot be suddenly looking for an alternative. All the youngsters who are inducted, we kept on concentrating on them through India 'A' tours where Rahul Dravid works on them. And whenever there is any requirement (for the India team), it is not a surprise for those players. It is a natural transition which is happening. We can happily say that we created a good bench strength.
What does the limited overs future hold for R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja?
The young spinners whom we have given opportunities to, have utilised them. So, we are giving them an extended run.
With the amount of cricket that will be played, is it important to identify Test specialists?
Definitely, with the volume of cricketers that we have in India, we can move towards that direction where we can have specialists. Though the nucleus may remain the same we can always look at some specialists. You can see we have certain specialists for Tests, ODIs and T20s. Apart from that nucleus, we can definitely concentrate on having specialists for three different formats.
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