CHENNAI: Decisions taken by the national selection committee make for interesting study when they leave room for debate. Announcement of the Indian Test side for the series in New Zealand isn’t high on that quotient. Injuries meant they had to deviate from Plan A and that’s why the door opened for Shubman Gill and Navdeep Saini.
There was a noticeable omission nonetheless and that was of KL Rahul. He was dropped for the longest format after last year’s Test series in the West Indies following a string of low scores. By sticking to Mayank Agarwal, the selectors have shown continuity. And by picking Prithvi Shaw and Gill, they have rewarded performance in domestic cricket and India A games in New Zealand.
Rahul’s exclusion raises eyebrows given the form he has displayed in the shorter formats in the last few months. And most of his failures as opener in Tests came in England and Australia in 2018 and 2018-19. Barring Agarwal in two Tests, no opener did well on those tours. Rahul had a prolonged slump against some tough bowling, but he knows how to score runs in Tests, as five tons in 36 outings suggest.
“Given the form he is in, Rahul should have been an automatic choice. Unless he has been rested, I don’t understand this decision. There is no doubt about his ability. He had a lean patch, but we can all see what kind of form he is in. As selectors, you look for players who are performing at that moment,” said former selector Ashok Malhotra.
In defence of the selectors, it can be said that they have stuck to a format-specific strategy. They groomed Agarwal for this role and tried out Shaw and Gill in the longer format by making them part of the India A team which is in New Zealand now. Overlooking them to accommodate someone who has done well in ODIs and T20s might have sent wrong signals.
Malhotra doesn’t agree. “As selectors, you don’t always go by formats. Rohit (Sharma) was included in the Test side after doing exceptionally in ODIs. In 2003-04, VVS Laxman was not part of the ODIs when India went to Australia. He batted well in the Test series, we included him in the ODI team and he went on to score three centuries in the tri-series. One need not be so rigid with formats. You select on the basis of how one is playing and by assessing what he can do in this kind of form.”As the debate goes on, Rahul has to wait. Sometimes, things change drastically in a short span of time. Shaw, who was nowhere about two months ago, is an example.
Kohli (C), Agarwal, Shaw, Gill, Pujara, Rahane, Vihari, Saha (wk), Pant (wk), Ashwin, Jadeja, Bumrah, Umesh, Shami, Saini, Ishant (subject to fitness clearance).