Over the past year or so, the Indian selection panel have found themselves in hot water on several occasions over their choices. From picking players who coaches claim were ‘injured’, to dropping ‘injured’ players who have claimed to be fit, MSK Prasad and Co. have had a lot to contend with. This coupled with the irrational rest policy has often led to the fans and media question the fluidity and rationality of the selection committee.

Even before India’s sojourn 'Down Under' began, captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri have almost robotically been reiterating the same tunes of how they fancy playing a fixed team ahead of the World Cup. Nevertheless, the starting 11 of the team has constantly incurred changes, with MS Dhoni’s minor hamstring injury in New Zealand being the only enforced change.

With only five International games to go for India before the World Cup, the team still have question marks over the preferred middle-order combination. Will Dinesh Karthik be the unlucky man to sit out or will Ambati Rayudu be placed on the bench? Or will the team sacrifice Kedhar Jadhav’s all-round abilities in preference of two specialist batsmen in Karthik and Rayudu? Several questions left unanswered despite the series Down Under being the perfect opportunity to finalize these queries.

The batting position of MS Dhoni has been a topic of debate, even within the team. Vice-captain Rohit Sharma prefers to see the talisman at four, while captain Kohli enjoys Dhoni as the finisher at 5. Coach Shastri has a different view of his own as well. Also, Dhoni, who was previously thought of as the weak link in the team, is now being played up as the most important cog in the Indian team by MSK Prasad.

Under Pressure

Also, the selectors and team management have tended to overhype a new player which puts on an avoidable extra burden on said players. Take for instance 19-year-old Shubman Gill, who made his debut in the ODI series against New Zealand. The selectors, team captain and coach heaped praises on young Gill who in comparison to those sold himself short in the couple of games he got to play.

Secondly, Vijay Shankar has been talked up as a potential back-up for Hardik Pandya come the World Cup, yet the former has been employed as a pure batsman in the T20 series against New Zealand. Even in the few ODI games that Shankar played, he was underused as a bowler, with Kedhar Jadhav bowling more overs than him and didn’t have a lot to do with the bat as well due to India’s top-order performing well.

In the bowling department, India seem a little more balanced with Mohammed Shami’s impressive bowling Down Under all but sealing his slot as India’s third seamer behind Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Even the spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have worked wonders playing in tandem, but one must keep in mind the World Cup is being played in conditions historically hostile to the turning ball. If the team were to play with a solitary spinner, there seems to be no clarity on who gets preference, and which pacer replaces the other.

Pant or Rahane?

William West/ AFP

In a recent interview, Indian selector Prasad mentioned they are still looking into the performances of Rishabh Pant and Ajinkya Rahane as the 15th player in that squad. Given that logic, it seems almost laughable that neither of the duo were given a chance in these beta phases, with both expected to join the squad having last played International cricket in the white of India as long ago as January.

The Indian selection process has seemed like a slot machine at a casino, where everyone is unsure of what numbers it is going to spit out, with myriad combinations to mull over. Coupled with the bipolar nature of the management and the selectors, it feels like avoidable chaos for a team who are in such an important year of their chronicle.