Yashasvi Jaiswal and Mukesh Kumar are in contention to replace the duo as the selection committee starts preparing the next batch of players for tougher assignments
Cheteshwar Pujara (L), Umesh Yadav (R)/ Pic: AFP
Senior players Cheteshwar Pujara and Umesh Yadav's places could come under scanner before Men in Blue travels to West Indies for a two-Test series, blame India's second successive World Test Championship final defeat. Yashasvi Jaiswal and Mukesh Kumar are in contention to replace the duo as the selection committee starts preparing the next batch of players for tougher assignments.
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.
While another WTC final defeat will hurt the team, there is a strong feeling that the Shiv Sunder Das-led selection committee and head coach Rahul Dravid will be looking at new options going into the next WTC cycle, which starts with the series in the Caribbean. The two weak links as of now seem to be Pujara and Umesh, who haven't been up to the mark for a long time.
"You need to strike a balance. Selection is a process of elimination but you need that blend of youth and experience. The idea should be long-term and you have to look at two- year cycle now. I believe Yashasvi Jaiswal is ready for international cricket. He has scored double hundreds in Ranji, Irani and Duleep Trophy. Looks solid in terms of temperament and could be groomed while being given enough chances to grow," former national selector Devang Gandhi told PTI.
Another former national selector, who refused to be quoted, was critical of the BCCI not having any A Tour programme since the tour of Bangladesh last December.
"Look, Umesh is at the business end of his career but with no A tour programme, you don't know who all are ready. There was a time we had Mayank Agarwal, Rishabh Pant, Hanuma Vihari, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini ready through consistent A tours and shadow series. Now you don't know. I presume only form bowler is Mukesh Kumar but he is a seamer and not an express pacer," the selector said.
While one can't put a date on KL Rahul's comeback from a thigh surgery, he is no longer in leadership contention. Will skipper Rohit Sharma, considering his current form and fitness, continue to play Test cricket for two more years and complete the next cycle, when he would be nearly 38? That's a million dollar question at the moment. Another question is who is a better bet as vice-captain in next one year if Pujara is phased out considering that the West Indies is one Test team against whom a youngster would have easy initiation.
"The problem is that you give a West Indies Test series to Pujara and if he scores, you have got to persist with him for one more year as there are no Tests after this till December. So do you do that or straightaway get a youngster and get him ready for bigger battles," the former selector questioned.
For many, Shubman Gill at 23 is at the correct age where he can be prepared over time for a leadership role. A short-term solution could be to hand it over to a sure-shot all-format player like Ravindra Jadeja.
However, Gandhi asked why not someone like R Ashwin, who has a fantastic cricket brain.
"Why not Ashwin? And if you say that he is not a certainty overseas, then I would say even Rahane, despite being a vice-captain, was dropped from playing XI at one point. So even Ashwin can be considered or Rahane for a short time before Gill cements his place in Test XI," Gandhi opined.
One format where there won't be any ambiguity is T20 Internationals where Hardik Pandya will lead India, including in next year's T20 World Cup in the Americas (West Indies and USA).
The T20I team would be purely based on IPL performers and one can expect the likes of Rinku Singh and Jitesh Sharma to make the cut in the final squad, as teams in the past lacked finishers.
While Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli are being phased out of the shortest format, the likes of Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj could be rested considering their workload and the upcoming ODIs before the World Cup.
(With PTI inputs)