The marathon meeting lasting over three hours said it all as the selectors would have agonised over the Indian squad composition for the ODI series against England next month in the light of the ever-growing list of injured players. Under the circumstances, the selectors did a fair job by including some youngsters.
The squad for the first two games in Hyderabad and Delhi, is not without a few surprises, least of all, the omission of Harbhajan Singh, hitherto India's main spinner. Although the wily off-spinner is back to full fitness after pulling out of the England tour citing 'abdominal strain', the selectors have obviously taken into account his recent poor form and decided against including him in the 15.
Images: Tendulkar moves into his new dream house
The squad contains three frontline spinners in Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin and young leggie Rahul Sharma who made the grade basically on his IPL showing, though I wonder whether so much importance should have been given to T20 performances.
Obviously, the selectors gave a lot of thought to the pace attack that will be headed by Praveen Kumar along with a couple of young seamers in Sreenath Arvind and Varun Aaron, backed by Vinay Kumar. After the disastrous error of including Rudra Pratap Singh who cut short a holiday in the US to join the squad in England, the selectors rightly shied from including Ashish Nehra who has come out of an injury-enforced layoff.
RP neither had the pace nor motivation going by his lackadaisical showing in England and was more a passenger than a contributor. In this context, although Nehra had declared himself fit and put in some time at the nets, the selectors desisted from risking him, perhaps hoping that he would regain his peak form in time for the more important tour of Australia this winter.
Harbhajan axed; Sharma, Aravind new faces in team
There was considerable speculation over skipper Dhoni's availability as he had repeatedly spoken out about the fatigue factor. I thought he deserved a break much more than any other player since he has been at it virtually non-stop. Being a wicket-keeper and the captain is no mean task and perhaps, the selectors would have done a good turn by resting him for the ODI series against England.
Given the packed schedule in the coming months, the focus should be on having a squad without injury problems for the all-important tour of Australia who, by all accounts, are on their way up after a recent slump in the wake of a clutch of retirements. The trip Down Under will be no picnic and hence all the more reason why India need to be at full strength unlike in the immediate post-World Cup period when it was a task to find 11 fit and deserving candidates.
To this end, the BCCI should insist on players not in the India squad returning to domestic circuit if only to prove their fitness levels, rather than merely going by reputation. For instance, Harbhajan would do well to get a few domestic games under his belt that will help him get back into form and also full match fitness.
The same could be said of Sehwag, who despite his obvious class and past performances, still needs to prove his fitness rather than rush into international cricket, something he did earlier this summer only to pull out after recurrence of his shoulder injury that had not healed fully.
Of major worry is that of Ishant Sharma who has reportedly put off an inevitable ankle surgery, keeping in mind the tour of Australia. I feel that Ishant, still being only 23, should be looking long-term rather than immediate gains. He is far too talented to be rushed into such a demanding tour and risk a career-threatening injury.
Team is well-balanced and fit: Srikkanth
There have been enough instances in the past, notably that of Zaheer Khan who was clearly not fully fit and broke down on the very first day of the Test series in England when he could have been held back and it is anybody’s guess whether the left-arm seamer would ever attain peak form in the near future. It is to be hoped that the selectors would have learnt their lessons from this episode and accordingly nurture young talent.
Although the Indian squad named is for the first two ODIs, the selectors would do well to give a longer run for the youngsters some of whom might take time to find their feet at the highest level. In the past, far too many have been picked on the premise of being ''potential and promising'' talent only to be dropped and forgotten without even getting a game or two.