Partab Ramchand

By: Partab Ramchand


May 24, 2022: It is never easy to don a selectors’ hat.  The five wise men as they are often called rather derisively can apparently please no one and can only be the subject of criticism – much of it unfair and unreasonable. Many years ago former Indian pace bowler TA Sekhar then on the selection committee told me that he was aware of what awaited him when he was nominated for the post. “I knew there would be only criticism. So I just developed a thick hide and now the adverse comments don’t really bother me,” he said. Selectors and thick skins have necessarily to go together.

These days it is even more difficult to be a selector simply because there is so much talent in the country and so who to pick and who to omit is a really thankless task though it may be a case of an embarrassment of riches. Fortunately, there are now three formats and so there is an opportunity to do a balancing act. After all there are T-20 specialists these days and those who excel in either ODIs or Tests. There are a few of course who perform admirably in all three formats. Then there is a balancing act as to who to rest. With so much cricket being played these days a break can work wonders for a cricketer who is generally overworked.

Taking all these factors into consideration the selectors have done a pretty good job in picking the Indian T-20 squad for the home series against South Africa next month and the one remaining Test against England in July. Three selections are particularly significant. The first is Umran Malik being fast tracked on the basis of his showing in the IPL. An Indian bowler hurtling down thunderbolts regularly at over 150 kmph cannot be ignored and it is encouraging to note that he has been rewarded at the earliest. Yes, sometimes it is better to keep a talented youngster wait for some time before picking him but they could be no such approach as far as Malik is concerned. He has already done enough to warrant his place in the national squad. Yes, he does spray the ball around a bit but with guidance from his coach Dale Steyn at Sunrisers Hyderabad one could already see improvement as the tournament progressed. The opportunity has come his way; it is now up to him to prove his worth.

Cheteshwar Pujara’s inclusion is also significant. After being dropped for the home series against New Zealand following a run of low scores, he signed a contract with Sussex and his sublime showing around the county circuit has seen him make a rather quick comeback. There is no way one can ignore a run that includes two hundreds and two double hundreds in four successive matches. Moreover, he has been playing in England and with the Test to be played in that country it makes for a very upbeat scenario both for Pujara and the Indian team.

The third significant inclusion has to be that of Dinesh Karthik. First there was MS Dhoni, then Rishabh Pant and finally there emerged a couple of gifted young glovemen who could also display fireworks with the bat. Karthik who will turn 37 in a week’s time could well have accepted the fact that his days as an Indian cricketer were over. But it was also clear that like good wine he was getting better with age acquiring the title of `finisher’.  The selectors obviously kept him in mind and the clincher was his blistering form in the IPL. His death over numbers are particularly dazzling – 91 balls, 206 runs with the best in the league strike rate of 226.37. With those kind of figures against his name the Chennai-born keeper-batsman had to make a comeback.

(Partab Ramchand is a veteran sports journalist, the views expressed here are personal.)

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