Ever since they took over, the Sandip Patil-led selection committee has shown a refreshingly far-sighted approach in giving talented youngsters the big break. The quintet realizes that there is talent aplenty in the country and following the recent retirement of stalwarts and with Sachin Tendulkar bound to go by the end of the season, this is the time to bring them in.
They have been careful in not turning the clock back and recalling discarded players, concentrating on a youth-oriented policy that has yielded dividends going by recent results.
But all this does not necessarily signal the end of the careers of players who have served the country for many years, some of them emerging as stars and superstars in their own right. They might have been discarded on grounds of non-performance, but should they prove on recent showing that they still deserve to be part of the Indian squad opportunities must be given to them to display their skill and experience.
This is clearly the rationale behind the recall of Yuvraj Singh. His is a welcome return and even those who believe in only looking ahead and consider recalling older players as a retrograde step will applaud the stroke playing left hander. After all, none can deny that he is a match-winner on his day and going by recent performances, it is clear that Yuvraj who completes 32 in December, has still a lot to offer Indian cricket.
Overall, one must salute his never say die spirit. Being stricken with cancer at such a young age and particularly for a sportsman who has the world at his feet is a disturbing, even frightening thought. But Yuvraj through treatment has hopefully licked the Big C. The months of rehab must have drained him so he decided to go to France for an extended and intensive training session to try and get back to being physically fit and be ready for a return first to blue colours and then hopefully to white.
While there is no denying that he has under-performed in Tests particularly given his prodigious talent and ample opportunities, there is also no denying that he has been one of the world’s best batsmen in the limited overs game. His ODI career stats – over 8000 runs, 13 hundreds, an average of nearly 37 allied to a strike rate of over 87 – underline this and on experience, credentials and current form he should be a cinch to figure in the playing eleven against the Aussies in both formats.
Apart from Yuvraj, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag are also in the running for a recall but to be candid their recent performances have not merited a return. Also the selectors would not like to recall all the discarded players simultaneously. It would not be in keeping with their youth policy and might also send a wrong signal to the many youngsters waiting for the big break.
The welcome return of Yuvraj apart there are a couple of surprise omissions and inclusions in the squad to figure in the lone T-20 international and the first three ODIs. The omission of Umesh Yadav sticks out like a sore thumb especially with Vinay Kumar and Mohammed Shami in the squad.
Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are the two best young fast bowlers today and while the latter is in Yadav is out. From the selectors’ viewpoint perhaps it is part of a rotation policy or maybe they are reducing Yadav’s workload seeing him as a Test only bowler. But then the same yardstick can be used for Bhuvneshwar who is bound to figure in all formats throughout the long and hectic season.
In any case, Yadav should have figured in the squad ahead of Shami and Vinay. I have never considered Vinay a long term prospect and I don’t know why the selectors persist with him. In the long run, I feel Mohit Sharma is a bowler with better potential. Also one hopes that Yadav will be back when the team is picked for the remaining ODIs.
With Yuvraj’s return, Dinesh Kartik had to make way though one feels a bit sorry for the Tamil Nadu batsman who during his in and out career has rarely let the team down.
Among the many claimants Ambati Rayudu has clinched the reserve batsman’s slot. The three spinners Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja picked themselves as did the five batsmen MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli.
Personally, I am very happy with the selection of Jaydev Unadkat. The left-arm seamer who turns 22 later this month is bowling particularly well these days and I venture to forecast that given ample opportunities he will make a name for himself in the coming days.
The season has just started and overall the selectors have done a commendable job. One hopes they will continue to keep the balance between youth and experience – though with an emphasis on the former aspect - both in the Test and limited overs squads. Fortunately, there are a number of players with both these qualities and it is up to the selectors to juggle expertly with the embarrassment of riches around and come out with a winning combination.