The chairman of India’s cricket team selection committee, MSK Prasad, on Friday, revealed that the committee started preparing for the World Cup 2019 after the Champions Trophy final defeat to Pakistan in 2017. Speaking in an interview to Cricbuzz, Prasad said: “The planning started right after the finals of the Champions Trophy in 2017. We analysed our shortcomings after that game, and we started working to fulfil those shortcomings. We tried certain new combinations and I feel we have fairly succeeded in what we wanted.”
The World Cup is set to begin from May 30, 2019 and India still appear unsure about their middle-order. In the 4th ODI against New Zealand at Hamilton on Thursday, the men in blue were slumped to 92 all out, in the absence of skipper Virat Kohli and veteran MS Dhoni. To add to the worries, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik and Ambati Rayudu, scoring just 1 run among themselves.
Speaking on the middle order selections, Prasad said: “I have confidence in this team that we can chase bigger totals. We have a good blend of experience and exuberance of youth who play that fearless brand of cricket.” The former Indian keeper added that the return of Hardik Pandya brings more balance to the middle order.
“Hardik Pandya definitely adds huge strength to the team’s balance. He brings in that additional strength to all three departments (batting, bowling and fielding). He has an abundance of talent, which he needs to realise and convert into match-winning performances,” he said.
Prasad further talked about how the selection committee is working towards bringing the next generation of fast bowlers to Indian cricket. “In the last couple of years, we have identified certain fast bowlers and started grooming them at the NCA. We have given them exposure on A tours and in BP XIs against visiting sides. We also started this system of having understudies during foreign tours to give an opportunity for the upcoming seamers to understand the demands of the game at the highest levels, and at the same time help them to get used to our own players and environment. This system has also helped them to work with our bowling coach Bharat Arun and also train with Shankar Basu,” he said.
On being questioned about the selection of Jasprit Bumrah into the Test format, Prasad revealed that the seamer was initially viewed as a T20 specialist. “Bumrah was initially picked for the shorter formats. There were many theories that this kid shouldn’t be exposed to the longer format since he has a peculiar action, which can lead him to injuries. In fact, the selection committee and team management thought the other way round. If this kid can get stronger without making any changes to his action, he can prove to be effective in the longer format, especially while playing abroad,” he said.
Prasad credited the fitness team and Bumrah’s dedication for ensuring he succeeds in the longest format. “Bharat, Basu, and Patrick have really worked hard on him and at the same time, hats off to Bumrah who has religiously followed the fitness regimens he has been subjected too. Today, we have results to see. Within a span of one year, he has become the most important bowler in our team, and at the same time, he is ranked as one of the top bowlers in the ICC Test Rankings,” he said.
On the recent inclusions of youngsters such as Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill in the international sides, Prasad said that the decision was taken after watching the progress of the players. “We have developed a healthy player progression process. Ravi Shastri, Dravid, I and my colleagues keep discussing on the players’ progress and based on the need in the senior team, we upgrade the players from India A to the senior team.”
“Fundamentally, we look at consistency and also the quality of runs scored in trying and testing conditions. We select a bunch of talented players from domestic cricket and provide them with ample opportunities to excel and those who do get promoted,” he added.
Prasad further recognised IPL as an important tool in recognising the pool talent. “Well, IPL is a premier Indian tournament that has the best players playing from across the world. The fierce competition that this tournament offers is phenomenal. Players performing consistently will definitely catch the eye. Having said that, we pick players from IPL only for T20 format and from there on to ODIs, if they are living up to the expected standards. After being picked from the IPL, it’s up to the players on how keen they are in learning the tricks of the trade that different formats of the game offer,” he said.
“If they learn to adapt, then they can play any format. It is very similar to the days gone by where players who used to perform exceedingly well in Ranji got noticed by the selectors, and when they were thrown into the other formats, they used to excel too. Once noticed and recognised in one format, it’s all about how the players adapt to the demands of the other formats of the game,” he added.
Prasad further talked about the future of Indian cricket and said that he hopes that the side does not face a talent crunch like the other big cricketing nations. “Our domestic cricket is very good, and we keep seeing special talent every passing year which I and my colleagues don’t want to miss. Unless and until we watch these matches and identify fresh talent and prepare a good succession chart, there is every possibility that we might get stagnated like some other countries.”
“I never want a situation like some of those countries who have dominated world cricket in different eras and are found wanting of quality players today. When I and my colleagues leave this job, we will be very happy to see the Indian Team dominating in all three formats and at the same time have created a healthy bench strength that India need not worry for quality players or replacements for the next decade,” he added.