Still No Gambhir, India Open with Rohit and Dhawan

The Indian Champions Trophy squad was announced earlier this week with Virat Kohli unanimously named as the captain of the Indian side. The team included names like Ravichandran Ashwin and Mohammed Shami who were rested in the recent England series to have better rehabilitation from their injuries. Manish Pandey was named as an extra batsman. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were picked as the front line openers and Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Yuvraj Singh in the middle order with MS Dhoni to follow.

MSK Prasad, Chief BCCI selector also reported that Rishabh Pant, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Dinesh Karthik and Suresh Raina were kept on standby. This decision came to the surprise of many critics and connoisseurs of the game who were expecting to see the presence of Gautam Gambhir in the list. Gautam Gambhir has been in and out of the international circuit ever since the 2011 World Cup. His recent and sustained performance in the IPL has led several experts to scrutinise the current selection for the Champions Trophy.

Undoubtedly Gambhir’s performance in the IPL since his inception in the KKR side has been all uphill. He had led his team to victory in the cash-rich league twice in his first four seasons with KKR. In the 2008 season, he was the second highest run-scorer overall being a runner-up for the orange cap. Even after 10 years in IPL, he has not let down any expectations as a batsman or even as a captain. He also currently features in the top 5 run-getters in this edition of the IPL.

But is someone’s form in the domestic league enough credibility for him to be selected in the ODI side for one of the most important leagues? Is IPL today the only criteria to judge the competence of the cricketers in the longer format too?

Gambhir himself in an interview with ESPN stated,”T20 runs should only be a criterion to get selected for a T20 side. The moment you start picking players in the one-day format by their T20 performance, then you are giving your domestic 50-over competitions absolutely no relevance,”

“The moment I start thinking about me scoring runs to be part of the Champions Trophy team, it would be a very, very selfish thing to do. And being a leader you can’t do that. You should always stay in the present. Rest of the things are by-products – if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t happen, it is fine. Ultimately I don’t play to get selected, I play to win a game of cricket,” Gambhir added further.

Rohit Sharma returning from a sustained thigh injury and being unavailable for over 4 months is currently struggling to find his mojo. Shikhar Dhawan, on the other hand, being in fine form in this IPL had struggled during the recent home season against England. India will most likely see the opening pair of Rohit and Rahane on the pitch as the first-hand combination.

So in the English conditions of the current CT could the inclusion of Gambhir in the squad have been the better decision?

Let’s have a flashback from 2014 when India toured England. The ODIs saw India take the Investec trophy with a 3-1 margin. India in the series opened with Rohit, Dhawan, and Rahane. Rohit Sharma featuring in only one match scored a half century. Dhawan scored a total of 155 with an average of 52 including one fifty. Rahane too did not disappoint and scored a century while opening in the fourth ODI.

Depending upon statistics alone, the chosen Indian team for this CT does have the entailed credentials to perform in the English conditions. Coming back to the case of Gambhir, he has not played an ODI in the English wickets since the Indian tour of 2007 wherein too his form had been questionable with an average of 28.

Based only upon the IPL statistics of Indian openers in this IPL, Gambhir certainly could have the first pick for the Champions Trophy. But in a broader arena, it is reflected that the selected squad can prove the IPL gurus wrong and perform in England to the best of their abilities.