CHENNAI: Apparently, there isn’t much to look forward to when the selectors meet on Thursday to pick the Indian team for the one-day series against the West Indies starting on October 21. What’s the big deal about taking on a side as lacklustre as this bunch of Caribbeans! But hold on. There is a lot to look forward to and some intrigue as well. Most of it surrounds the wicketkeeper’s slot. Mahendra Singh Dhoni has not been anywhere near his best in the last few outings, while Rishabh Pant has made rapid strides in this period. Already in the Test side, whether the young keeper from Delhi makes the one-day cut ahead of next year’s World Cup is the main question. Dhoni has scored 1291 runs in 57 ODIs at a respectable 41.64 since the beginning of 2016.
These are highly respectable numbers for a wicketkeeper. But at this stage, it is perhaps more about the impact than numbers. The ageless champion was found wanting when the situation got challenging in the Asia Cup last month and the ODI series in England before that. He used his tank of experience to grind out 30s and 40s, but the robustness was missing, as was his trademark ability to stay there till the end or thereabouts.
Sure it’s unfair to expect a 37-year-old to perform like he did at his prime, but what does the team do? Does it stick to him based on what he did in the past and for emotional reasons or give a chance to someone who is promising to rewrite records when it comes to scoring quick? Should Pant get a chance in ODIs now so that the team management gets an idea before the World Cup how he might shape up? Or should he wait till Dhoni decides he has had enough? These are some of the questions that the selection committee headed by MSK Prasad has to answer when they meet to pick the players. A former keeper himself, Prasad has spoken about the need for taking the best man with the big gloves when it comes to the longest format. Without looking too convincing in this regard before he made Test debut, Pant has still made it there.
Will the selectors apply the same yardstick again? If the recent selections of Kuldeep Yadav, Prithvi Shaw or even Hanuma Vihari are something to go by, either the team management or the selectors have shown a willingness to welcome the new. In all these cases, they did not go by reputation or hesitate to drop the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Murali Vijay and Rohit Sharma.
If these are indications, then there is a chance that they will take one more brave call. However, that’s going to be easier said than done. Since it’s unlikely that the selectors will drop Dhoni and name a new wicketkeeper in his place, there is a chance that they will play safe and select both, leaving it up to the captain and coach to decide who they want in the XI. Whether that’s going to answer all the questions is a different matter altogether.