CHENNAI: India fought admirably in the three-Test series in South Africa, but still ended up being on the losing side. The Men in Blue are currently in control of the ODI series with a 3-0 lead, but the continued absence of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the spin department has been raising quite a few eyebrows across the country. India selection committee chief MSK Prasad clears the air about the tweaker pair, and gets candid on a range of topics. Excerpts:
How do you see the Test series loss in South Africa?
Prior to going there, I said this is the best side that has ever toured South Africa. Boys have lived up to the expectations; this series could have gone either way. I felt the first two matches, it was very much in our hands. Unfortunate that we didn’t win. We have taken 60 wickets and that’s a wonderful thing. The batsmen started playing very well towards the second half of the series. There are quite a few things that we have learnt from this series in terms of how to approach an away series, the preparation part of it and so on. Since we are going to play two more away series, we will definitely take the shortcomings from this series and take it forward. It was a moral victory for us.
With such a big squad does it make it difficult for you to narrow down the playing XI?
It’s a 49-51 ratio that keeps going on. Certain times we need to go by form. There are plenty of things that have gone by, yes we are definitely spoilt for choices.
Does consistent shuffling of XI affect players’ morale?
Easy to talk from outside. The issue is, what is best for the team at that given point of time, that’s what the team management decides on. May be at that point of time the team might have thought, going by form, going by the wicket and maybe going by the combination that we are looking at, that’s the best possible team. No team management plays to lose.
Some have performed well and have found themselves benched in the next match. What do you tell a player in such situations?
There were times when Bhuvneshwar (Kumar) got wickets and next match he was not playing. That’s the character this team has. They know what are their strengths and the management knows according to the wicket, which is the best combination. Nobody is taking the performance out of a player. For the sake of the team, these boys are ready to sacrifice places. We communicate with the players. It’s a wonderful atmosphere between the management, selection committee and players. We really understand and back each other. That’s the beauty of this team. Certain times I feel for Karun Nair. This boy has scored a triple hundred and he’s not finding a place. But we keep talking to him regularly and he’s is in our scheme of things all the time. On the priority list, whenever there is an opportunity, Karun will get a chance. That is the system we have developed.
Has the performance of wrist spinners come as a surprise?
Not really. We always had the faith that both are wicket takers. I’m very confident about their potential and with the backing they get from the management and the captain, their confidence keeps improving.
Where do R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja stand in terms of the limited-overs team?
We have spoken to both of them.
Can you elaborate?
We have told them the reasons. In fact, they’re exceptional cricketers and all three selectors have had a word with them.
Will wrist spinners be the way forward for the team till 2019 World Cup?
We have given an opportunity to youngsters. We have increased the pool of spinners and considering whatever tournament comes around, the best possible combination is picked. We have enough bench strength in all departments, so why not spin? We wanted to bring some variety into our spin department, which otherwise was getting one-dimensional.
Was it more to do with limited-overs demands?
Initially, we faced criticism for picking both of them in the playing XI because of the stature of Ashwin and Jadeja, considering that they were No 1 and 2 in Test rankings at that time. The fundamental idea was to bring variety into the team that we have. That’s why we have given them the chances, and time and time again, they have proved us right for picking them.
Will there be more specialisation for formats?
We are trying out a few players. We will also take into account the IPL. We will give chances to youngsters as that is the format we can try. The World T20 is two years away, and we have time. Whereas we are closing in on the 50-over World Cup there isn’t much time.