My respect, already high for Sandeep Patil and his co-selectors, has increased following the team picked for the series of five ODIs in Zimbabwe. Despite the failures in the ongoing tri-series in West Indies, the selectors have not lost their main focus which is to build a team good enough to retain the World Cup in 2015.
They have wisely resisted the temptation of falling back on the senior players, something which was widely predicted in the media on the eve of the selection. There was much speculation that cricketers like Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag, Praveen Kumar, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh might be recalled.
Once you have set your sights on the future, there is no point in turning the clock back. Any such move would be a retrograde step. The long term view is always preferable to short term solutions. In this regard Patil has done well in emulating another chairman of the selection committee over 40 years ago.
When Vijay Merchant took over in the late 60s, he had firm views on the future belonging to the youth. Consequently he gave the break to many deserving candidates and even as India did not fare very well in the international arena, he took criticism in his stride and refused to press the panic buttons and recall the seniors as was widely suggested.
He persisted with youth keeping the long term policy in mind and the result was the twin triumphs in West Indies and England in 1971. The victories were shaped by the young men whom Merchant picked, among them Eknath Solkar, Ashok Mankad, Gundappa Viswanath and Sunil Gavaskar.
The reserve strength in Indian cricket today is pretty strong and it only needs for the selection committee to tap it. If any proof was required then the players picked symbolize it while it is also encouraging to note that equally deserving candidates were not considered because only 15 can be selected.
Certainly the most positive selection has been that of Pervez Rasool. That he becomes the first cricketer from Jammu & Kashmir to be picked for national colours adds the storybook touch.
The fact remains that he is one of the most promising spin bowlers in the land and on a tour of Zimbabwe when the focus should be on the young, the selection of Rasool must be widely welcomed.
He is an off spinner of the traditional school, giving the ball a lot of air and a healthy tweak. He is an ideal Test prospect and it is good that he has got a chance first in ODIs to prove his potential.
Another welcome choice is another 24-year-old, Mohit Sharma. It is not just that he had impressive figures in the IPL but it was the manner in which he bowled that really caught the eye.
He was far from being overawed by the big names he came up against and bowled with a lot of pace and hostility. The first class figures of the Haryana medium pacer - 44 wickets from 11 matches at under 25 apiece on unhelpful Indian tracks are highly commendable.
While this is a maiden international call up for Mohit Sharma and Pervez Rasool, Jaydev Unadkat earns a recall as one of the new look pace quartet with Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar being rested.
Unadkat’s place could well have gone to Varun Aaron had he been fit but the left arm medium pacer who played one Test in South Africa in 2010 without success is deserving of a place. He is a much better bowler now as the impressive results in the IPL will confirm and at 21 he deserves to be persevered with. He also brings a bit of variety to the pace attack.
It is also good to see Cheteshwar Pujara finally get a place in the ODI squad. Even in a format which calls for runs to be scored at brisk pace, there is always the place for the anchor man – a role in which Jonathan Trott excels for England and Rahul Dravid shone for India over an extended period. Ajinkya Rahane is another welcome choice for he can be effective both as an opening batsman and in the middle order.
The decision to rest Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav is also the right one for they have been playing non-stop cricket for quite a while now. They will no doubt come back refreshed for they still have a lot to contribute to Indian cricket.
The selectors have extended the far sighted approach to the India A team picked for South Africa. Pujara was always expected to be captain and I am particularly pleased with the selection of Stuart Binny, Shahbaz Nadeem, Ishwar Pandey and Siddharth Kaul.
Performances around the domestic circuit should be rewarded and that is what Patil and his co-selectors have done. It is also admirable that players who could be on India duty for an extended period – like Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Shikar Dhawan, Suresh Raina besides Pujara - have found a place in both squads. And to think that there are several other players unfortunate to miss out!