The Indian ODI squad for the tour of England has been announced. There aren't too many surprises in the selections, but a closer look gives one the view that it was a case of missed opportunities. Young middle-order bat Sanju Samson as well as leg spinner Karn Sharma have been given their deserved chances, but the exclusion of in-form players like Naman Ojha and Kedar Jadhav is somewhat baffling. Further, the out of form Suresh Raina continues to be picked in spite of mediocre performances whereas the veteran Yuvraj Singh, who has been in equally good or bad form as Raina continues to remain out of favour even in the one-day format.
First, at the positives. The inclusion of Samson at the age of 19 is definitely a plus. The Kerala youngster is one of the most promising batsmen around in India. He displayed his prowess in Australia in the quadrangular one-day series that India won, coming up with a number of match winning efforts under tense circumstances. Samson has the ability to play the big strokes without being harsh on the eye. He can find the boundaries without slogging, which is one of his strongest suits. Samson has been one of the most consistent players for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL over the last two seasons. Can he replicate his form at the international stage?
Karn Sharma is the only other newcomer in the side. He got lucky since the experienced Amit Mishra has been ruled out due to injury. But, this is now a great opportunity for Sharma to demonstrate his skills. A lot of spinners have been tried out by India in recent times, but apart from Ravichandran Ashwin, and more recently, Mishra none have been successful. Even Piyush Chawla could not grab the number of opportunities that came his way. Under present circumstances, Sharma is the best bet for India as a leg-spinner. He can also chip in with the bat, which could prove to be an additional advantage for India in England.
Speaking of the exclusions, Ojha's non-inclusion is definitely disappointing. Ojha was sensational in the Test series in Australia crossing the hundred mark in each of his three visits to the crease. He transformed one of those knocks into a double hundred. Ojha may be a wicketkeeper, which is one of the key reasons for his non-inclusion, but there have also been instances of wicketkeepers playing as pure batsman. Sri Lanka do it with Kumar Sangakkara, and New Zealand with Brendon McCullum. There is no reason why Ojha can't be given a chance to do the same, at least in one series.
As for Jadhav, he has been one of Maharashtra's most consistent batsmen over the last couple of seasons, and he is undoubtedly one of the best domestic cricketers around. Even in the few matches that he played in Australia, he came up with match-winning efforts. This is the right time to brood someone like Jadhav in. He could easily have replaced the underperforming Raina, who has been struggling for many matches now. If Yuvraj can be axed after a few failures, one wonders how the Chennai Super Kings left-hander continues to retain his place in the side. The verdict on the selection for England's ODIs thus is definitely a mixed bag.
--By A Cricket Analyst