Kuldeep Yadav impressed Virat Kohli in the West Indies and it appears the side have acknowledged the need for a genuine wristspinner in ODIs © AFP
At some point during India’s last Test of this series, the selectors are likely to meet to announce the squad for the Sri Lanka ODIs. There has been talk that a few of the big stars might rest given India sent pretty much a full-strength squad to the West Indies, too. However, Virat Kohli is showing no signs he wants to rest.
“My participation? Who said I am not playing?” a bemused Kohli responded, when asked about his participation in the ODIs. “I don’t know where this came from… if you don’t want me to play, then tell me… I have no problems in playing.”
The chairman of selectors, MSK Prasad, has been travelling with the team during the Tests. He will hand over the touring selector’s duties to one of his colleagues after the Tests. The BCCI secretary, Amitabh Chaudhary, too, is expected to be in Sri Lanka for an Asian Cricket Council meeting. So the convenor of the selection meeting and two selectors are likely to be in attendance in Sri Lanka with the third perhaps joining in through teleconferencing from India.
Kohli said he already had plans in mind for the ODIs. “We are going to sit down on selection soon and we certainly have plans in mind and combinations that we want to speak about,” Kohli said. “So as captain I am definitely in the thick of things and know what to speak to the committee about.”
The big question in the ODI selection continues to be the future of the two veterans, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni, now that KL Rahul is fit and playing Tests in Sri Lanka and Manish Pandey has returned to competitive cricket in style in the triangular A-team series in South Africa. If both the veterans continue to hold their places, youngster Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik might have to make way for Rahul and Pandey. Another way to accommodate Rahul will be to leave out Ajinya Rahane, who plays the similar dual role of opening and middle-order back-up.
Suresh Raina has also been at the NCA, proving his fitness. If the selectors look to give both veterans and youngsters a run, one or two of the established stars might have to rest. Kohli injured his shoulder during the long home season of 13 Tests, and came back midway during the IPL only to continue playing practically non-stop since then. There is a long home season and a South Africa tour lined up soon after India go back from Sri Lanka.
The ODI selection will also reveal a lot about how Kohli and the selectors foresee the role of spinners in the side. Kuldeep Yadav impressed the India captain a lot in the West Indies, which shows India have woken up to the need of a genuine wristspinner given the flat pitches in ODIs. Kohli was glowing in praise for Kuldeep, who appears set for his second Test in Pallekele.
“A guy like Kuldeep, when you hand him the ball he is willing to bowl in any situation, willing to bowl with attacking fields, willing to throw the ball up towards the batsmen, he believes in his own ability and believes in deceiving the batsmen with the skill that he has so,” Kohli said. “I think that’s his biggest quality. A chinaman bowler is always something, which is an x-factor in a team. I would say his confidence is his USP.”
Where does that leave the two spinners ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in Tests? Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin, like many other fingerspinners, have had mixed fortunes in limited-overs cricket for a while. It is a tricky situation India find themselves in. Ashwin was left out of the XI in the West Indies just when he looked like he was getting into some kind of rhythm. Jadeja replaced him. If Kuldeep keeps doing well and if India retain the combination of only two spinners in the 15, which they took to the Champions Trophy in England, at some point they might have to choose between Ashwin and Jadeja.
India find themselves with many choices but are yet some way off the ideal combination in ODIs. Take a look at the sidebar. Even if those with an outside chance are to be left out, there are 19 fit players out of which four have to be eliminated. It will be three batsmen and one spinner in all likelihood. Not just the selections now on, the communication with those left out will be just as crucial.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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