Yuvraj Singh is back in Indian colours and so is Ashish Nehra. Yet, their journeys could not be more different.
Yuvraj’s last innings in the Indian jersey was the painstaking 21-ball 11 in the WorldT20 final against Sri Lanka in 2013. Some ignorant cricket fans might blame him for that defeat and still feel agony towards his selection, calling it a regressive move. At 34, even Yuvraj will agree that his selection had as much to do with luck as it has to with his performances. Not that his performances were bad but he has seen better days. In the domestic circuit it’s tough for a former international star to motivate himself to play in the dustbowls and if they happen to perform just decently, that’s knocking the doors enough. Yuvraj did just that. In the ongoing Vijay Hazare trophy, he is the third highest run-getter scoring 341 runs at an average of 85.25. What also favours his case is his penchant of coming good under pressure situations: the 2007 WorldT20 and the 2011 World Cup, where he was Man of the Tournament, is taken into account.
Nehra, on the other hand, finds a place solely on the basis of his IPL performance in 2015. He has played only one match in the Vijay Hazare trophy and his last international appearance was the World Cup semi-final in 2011. His case is peculiar because he was dropped at the end of a season where he had been India’s most successful bowler. At that time, there were few bowlers better than him at the death. The selectors’ logic was that after the 4-0 defeat in England they wanted to “revamp” the bowling lineup. Consequently, Munaf Patel was dropped, Praveen Kumar was never given a look-in again and Harbhajan Singh never got to make a comeback from injury until just recently. The new guys that were brought were good, but they lacked an experienced mentor. Ishant Sharma in those days still blew hot and cold and S Sreesanth was about to ruin his career. The only thing that saved India was the change in ODI rules which allowed the batsmen to atone for the bowlers’ faults. In that context, it is good to see Nehra again but both Nehra and Yuvraj have to prove that they belong or face the prospect of being written off forever.
In other news, Suresh Raina has been dropped, Manish Pandey gets another call-up, and the likes of Rishi Dhawan and never-heard-before, Barinder Sran, make it to the ODI unit. The logic for selecting Sran is solid. Indian attack had become very predictable and they needed a left arm fast bowler but betting on a complete newcomer, without any substantial domestic cricket either, is a move that may or may not yield rich dividends. Speaking of R Dhawan, his selection could be the actual breakthrough for the squad. He bowls medium pace and is an effective lower order batsman. He could be the all-rounder MS Dhoni lamented not having during his entire captaincy stint or he could end up on the same trajectory as Abhishek Nayar, someone whose all-around skills MS never really had much faith upon. Now coming to Raina, his omission seemed to be around the corner given his drought of runs in recent times. For his place, one assumes the debate was between Kedar Jadhav and Manish Pandey. Pandey has emerged trumps for now, but it is upon him now to reward the faith.
Another new face whose name features among the stalwarts is Hardik Pandya. He finds a place in the T20 side. His selection is based upon the fact that he is looked at as someone who can clear the boundary from the word go. He is said to be regarded highly by Ricky Ponting and John Wright. One hopes that their eye is as good as their strokeplay.
T20I squad: MS Dhoni (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Harbhajan Singh, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra
ODI squad: MS Dhoni (capt), R Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Gurkeerat Singh, Rishi Dhawan, Barinder Sran