Yashasvi Jaiswal earned his maiden call-up for West Indies Tests, while Pujara faced the axe. Rahane was re-appointed as the vice-captain of the Test side days after making an international comeback in the previous game
Yashasvi Jaiswal (L), Cheteshwar Pujara-Ajinkya Rahane (R), Pic: AFP
India will have a month-long tour of West Indies where they would start with two Test matches starting July 12, followed by three ODIs and five T20Is in which a completely new team under Hardik Pandya's captaincy will be plying its trade with IPL performers likely to be rewarded. Come July, the ODI series against West Indies will serve as a good preparatory tournament for both India and the Caribbean Islands as they amp up preparation for the ICC Cricket ODI World Cup 2023 later in the year.
Following a seismic defeat against mighty Aussies during the World Test Championship final against Australia at the Oval earlier this month, the Men in Blue have made some big calls by bringing in some fresh faces for the Test and ODI setup. Perhaps, the biggest takeaway from India's squad selection was the exclusion of veteran batter Cheteshwar Pujara, with uncapped batters Yashaswi Jaiswal and Ruturaj Gaikwad taking over.
The duo's selection in the 16-member squad indicates that the four-member panel, headed by Shiv Sunder Das, is looking at the next two-year World Test Championship cycle (2023-2025). Both are coming off an excellent IPL season, opening the proceedings for Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings respectively.
That Pujara will be dropped and skipper Rohit Sharma is likely to lead the Test side in the Caribbean gained some momentum not too long ago. Besides BCCI's snub of Pujara, another significant development crept in with Ajinkya Rahane's re-appointment as the vice-captain of the Test side days after making an international comeback in the previous game.
While star pacer Mohammed Shami has been rested from both Tests and ODIs after nearly three months of hectic competitive cricket, it appears that the phasing out process has well begun in the Team India setup with the replacement of the profligate Umesh Yadav with Kolkata seamer Mukesh Kumar in the main squad.
The ODI squad also features a lot of the regulars, with Gaikwad finding himself as a part of the white ball setup as well. There is also a recall for Sanju Samsom, with KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant out with injuries.
Navdeep Saini, whose career has not been as consistent as he would have wanted since the historic tour of Australia, was given a chance for resurrection as his hit-the-deck (140 clicks) bowling might be effective on the slow Caribbean tracks.
Team India's ODI squad didn't spring up any major surprise with 17 members literally picking themselves. The injured Jasprit Bumrah, Shreyas Iyer, and KL Rahul, whenever fit, also select themselves, and together these 20 players will most likely make the core group going into the high-profile ODI World Cup.
Can Pujara do a Rahane?
Sure, Pujara has contributed to the team's success in all conditions but with him being on the wrong side of the 30s, he may have just run out of time to create the aura of invincibility that is the need of the hour in Test cricket. When he met the same fate as Rahane and was dropped for the home series against Sri Lanka, the former chairman of selectors Chetan Sharma had said that doors were not closed for the gritty No.3 and he could go get back to first-class cricket and earn his stripes.
Unwilling to surrender, Pujara went back to County Cricket, played for Sussex, and accumulated the necessary runs. It immediately yielded results as he was recalled for the one-off Test against England in 2022 and earned a chance to complete 100 Tests milestone in the series against Australia this year.
"We all knew he had a little chance after his poor run against Australia. The board carried on (with him) at the WTC final. But given the present conditions, it looks very difficult now," a BCCI source told Mid-Day on conditions of anonymity.
Barring his gritty knocks of 90 and 102 against Bangladesh, Pujara has scored at a poor average of 26 in the last three years and perhaps, a few may argue that he has got a very long rope for non-performance.
'Jai-swal! Brace for the new No. 3
The deserving Jaiswal had been in contention to replace Pujara as the selection committee is all set to welcome the next batch of players for tougher assignments. With his sublime knocks of 213 and 144 in the Irani Cup for the Rest of India against MP, the lanky Mumbai left-hander was expected to earn his maiden Test call-up. He has been a force to be reckoned with, as one can't look beyond his impressive first-class average of 80.21.
Interestingly, both Jaiswal and Gaikwad, who play Maharashtra, can open and bat at number three. If the duo forge a good combination at the top in the future, there is no reason why Shubman Gill should be ignored for the coveted No. 4 position in the absence of regular Virat Kohli.
"I am not saying Das' panel would think like this but a Ruturaj with his ability to play fast bowling, despite his 40 plus average in Ranji Trophy, stands a better chance to be successful. A selector will not just look at runs. Hence a Sarfaraz Khan getting completely exposed against quick bowlers in IPL or Abhimanyu Easwaran not scoring for Bengal in seven consecutive Ranji knock-out games (three quarter-finals, two semi-finals and two finals) also is taken into account. It is not just about how many runs you score but also how you score them that matters," a former selector told PTI.
Full India squads for Test and ODI series
India's Test squad: Rohit Sharma (C), Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Virat Kohli, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ajinkya Rahane (VC), KS Bharat (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat, and Navdeep Saini.
India's ODI squad: Rohit Sharma (C), Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Virat Kohli, Surya Kumar Yadav, Sanju Samson (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya (VC), Shardul Thakur, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat, Mohd. Siraj, Umran Malik, and Mukesh Kumar.