(Express photo by Prashant Nadkar)Chief selector MSK Prasad’s press conference on Sunday offered contradictions and an over-reliance on the team management’s preferences with regards to picking the World Cup replacements. He also said the selection committee felt for Ambati Rayudu, who announced his retirement after being snubbed in favour of Mayank Agarwal when Vijay Shankar was ruled out. Excerpts from the interaction.
Contradictions: A tale of two 34-year-olds, Rahane exclusion
Dinesh Karthik was dropped for the West Indies tour because the selectors preferred to look ahead. Kedar Jadhav, another 34-year-old, however, has been retained. Jadhav lost his place in the playing XI towards the back end of the World Cup with Karthik replacing him. Ajinkya Rahane, who is 31 and far more accomplished as a batsman, continues to be ignored in the shorter formats. Several former selectors, including Dilip Vengsarkar, were baffled at Rahane’s exclusion from the World Cup squad.
On Sunday, Prasad was asked about Rahane and his explanation was: “He was there in the scheme of things, but we have to reward performances of India A, that’s why we haven’t included him.”
The selectors did pick Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer and Navdeep Saini based on their performances in the ongoing India A team’s tour of the West Indies. But Shubman Gill, who hasn’t done badly either, wasn’t considered. Prasad said: “Shubman Gill went to New Zealand when KL Rahul was suspended for a few matches. Now KL Rahul has come back, so he is in the waiting list. He will definitely be considered in the future.”
And why was Karthik dropped and Jadhav picked? “We had certain plans till the World Cup. And post World Cup, I think we need to give opportunities to those youngsters who will go on to play for a long time,” Prasad said. As for Jadhav, he commented: “Kedar Jadhav hasn’t done anything wrong for his non-selection, first of all. We considered him, we are also getting our back-ups ready.”
Rubber-stamping team management’s decisions?
Finally, there was an explanation for why a middle-order bat, Rishabh Pant, replaced an injured opener, Shikhar Dhawan, and an opener, Mayank Agarwal, was sent for an injured middle-order bat, Vijay Shankar. “Since KL Rahul was going to open the innings, the team management had requested for a left-hander and we had no other choice than Rishabh Pant, and we were very, very clear on that. We know what he is capable of and that is the reason why we had to bring in a left-hander, which actually confused many people that why a middle-order batsman has been brought in place of an opener,” Prasad explained.
Agarwal, too, was the team management’s choice. “I’m sure all of you would have seen, in the game against England, when KL Rahul was trying for a catch, he had a big fall on the boundary line and he didn’t take the field for the rest of the innings.
“So there was a medical emergency at that stage whether he will continue or not (in the World Cup). There was a worry factor. At that juncture, a mail was written, a written communication was given to us that we need a back-up opener. We worked on certain permutations and looked at some of the openers. Some were not in form, others were injured, so that’s when we went to Mayank Agarwal.”
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Prasad tried to clear up the confusion, probably oblivious to the fact that on both occasions, the selection committee just rubber-stamped the team management’s choices.
‘No bias against Rayudu, selectors feel for him’
Ambati Rayudu called it quits after Agarwal was preferred over him as Shankar’s replacement, despite the former being a World Cup stand-by. Prasad was asked if Rayudu wasn’t picked for his 3D tweet — “Just Ordered a new set of 3d glasses to watch the world cup”. “Do you think we lost the game because of No. 4? Rishabh Pant played well, especially the way he batted in those conditions, “ the chief selector said. “Coming back to the tweet, frankly speaking, that was a lovely tweet. I really enjoyed it. Seriously, it was a very timely one and was very sarcastic.”
“When we pick any player and he does well, we feel so happy for him. Similarly, when somebody out of emotions goes out in this way, the selection committee members also feel for it.”