The BCCI announced India's squads for their upcoming tour of Australia, and the teams for all three formats had a few surprising choices. The selectors only increased the confusion surrounding the personnel announcement by making a few alterations yesterday.
Mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy, who had been called up to the Indian team for the first time, was ruled out with a shoulder injury. Reports also claimed that he played through the injury for the Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL 2020, and that the lack of transparency on his part has angered the BCCI.
In a pandemic-stricken world, the travelling squads have become larger in number and are never quite safe from last-minute changes. But even taking this into account, a number of surprising decisions have been made by the selectors while announcing India's squads for the Australia tour.
Here are 3 of the strangest.
#3 Prithvi Shaw makes the Test squad
Prithvi Shaw has been among the news since a very young age, with his exploits at the school level in Mumbai cricket now common knowledge. And in October 2018, he seemed to have no trouble in making the step up from first-class to international cricket when he smashed a hundred on Test debut against the West Indies.
In the process, Shaw became the youngest centurion in the history of Test cricket for India (18 years and 319 days). Despite the initial promise, not much has gone right for him since then. An unfortunate injury while fielding on the boundary in a practice match ruled him out of India's previous Australia tour, and he has played only 4 Tests so far.
Shaw's recent appearances away in New Zealand didn't inspire much confidence, but the biggest reason why his inclusion came as a surprise was his abysmal form in IPL 2020. T20 competitions aren't the best judge of a Test batsman, but the 21-year-old's downfall was due to his poor technique and lack of foot movement. Moreover, he was found out against the short ball, especially when aimed at the body.
Shaw looked far from an international quality batsman, and the selectors could've considered giving Shikhar Dhawan a Test recall or Shreyas Iyer a maiden call-up.
#2 Sanju Samson gets a late call-up to the Indian ODI squad
The Indian ODI squad for the tour of Australia had a notable absentee - Rishabh Pant. In the stocky southpaw's absence, only one wicket-keeper was present in the team - KL Rahul. Yesterday, the selectors announced that Sanju Samson would serve as the backup gloveman Down Under.
Many praised the move, since Samson has been knocking on the door for a long time now and has often been touted as the man to replace MS Dhoni. However, the Kerala batsman's inconsistency has marred his reputation. He averages only 37.64 in first-class cricket, and an even more concerning 30.57 in List A cricket.
Even in IPL 2020, after a bright start to his season, Samson faded away completely and registered a number of single-digit scores on the trot. He threw away his wicket in careless fashion on a number of occasions, and although he did appear to be getting back to form towards the end of the season, a 375-run season wasn't enough to earn a call-up.
The selectors have stuck by Rishabh Pant for quite a while now, and although he didn't exactly set IPL 2020 on fire with his performances, he was far more consistent before an injury setback. Even Ishan Kishan, who is placed at #4 on the Orange Cap list and seems to have solved his problem with staying at the crease for long periods of time, might have been a better option.
#1 Rohit Sharma is added only to the Test squad
After missing a few games due to a hamstring injury, Rohit Sharma was excluded from all three squads for India's tour of Australia. The decision came as a surprise for a number of reasons.
The stand-in captain for the Mumbai Indians, Kieron Pollard, stated emphatically that Rohit would be back soon and that he was recovering well. Mayank Agarwal, who had also suffered an injury during IPL 2020 and had missed games, was named in all three formats.
And then, to add mystery to the situation, the Indian white-ball vice-captain made a comeback to the playing XI in MI's final league game of the season and stated in the post-match interview that he was completely fit. Despite this proclamation, India's selectors yesterday added his name only to the Test squad.
The red-ball series is the final leg of the tour, so it's understandable if they believe Rohit is on a timeline to be fit for that part. However, he is clearly fit enough to play in the IPL, and even took part in a game that had no impact on MI's standing in the tournament.
There's no doubt that Rohit must prioritise the Indian team above the IPL, and the doubt surrounding his situation must be resolved at the earliest. As many experts and former cricketers have claimed, fans have a right to know.