What is “special talent”? Players who have the ability to impact the result! Who are the batsmen in the existing one-day team from this stand point alone? Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul? So, they logically must get selected. In limited over games, your best opener is the one who can get the “quickest starts” for the team. K.L. Rahul’s audacity at the top with great “cricketing shots”, and his youthful energy, should ideally pace him to open the innings along with Shikhar Dhawan. We also know that he is not suitable in the middle order. Therefore, let’s not waste such a colossal talent by not letting him open the innings and for that matter keeping him excluded from the final playing eleven, particularly in the main matches. He is too good a player to be made to sit out!!! So, what then is the role of Rohit Sharma as a batsman? He is a one-day star in his own rights. Once he sets himself in, there isn’t a more fluid and languid sight in world cricket today, demolishing bowlers to the ropes and over the ropes. Also, being a senior and vastly experienced cricketer, with the shrewd brain of a captain, Rohit Sharma must now take the position of no. 4 in batting order i.e. after Virat Kohli. It will solve major problem of the middle order. Virat and Rohit can control the batting all the way from the middle overs till the end. Even if one gets out, the other can take control of the innings.
When it comes to pure bowling, Indian cricket, at this time, is extremely fortunate to have 4 special talents in Jasprit Bumbra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Singh. Their selection is a “no-brainer”.
What about the all-rounders? We have a special talent in Hardik Pandya, when playing in the sub-continent. Even for outside the sub-continent, the following are good allrounders: Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja and perhaps Krunal Pandya. Hardik’s advantage is that he is a pace bowling allrounder, a rarity in Indian cricket. What further adds to his credential is that he is an explosive batsman, who can change the course of the game, if he gets going. Kedar Jadhav is a reliable lower order batsman for getting relatively fast runs and is a man with the golden arm of a spin bowler to surprise opponents with wickets at crucial moments. Ravindra Jadeja has a special talent in fielding, bringing in the live-wire effect and is usually quite effective as a containing and a wicket taking left arm spinner and one who can be a support batsman. There is an emerging all-rounder who could be hailed as a promising future potential. So, let’s keep a close tab on Abhishek Sharma, the left-handed batsman of natural talent, fast scoring ability and who bowls slow left arm spin.
What about wicket keeping? One option is to use Lokesh Rahul also as a keeper. However, in the overseas seaming and bouncier conditions you might need a specialist wicket keeper batsman. In one-days and T20s, teams cannot afford to have a specialist wicket keeper unless he happens to be a decisive batsman too. Today no one fits the bill better than Rishabh Pant, who is a hitter par-excellence! So, what about the great M.S. Dhoni, arguably the world’s best finisher and one who has also been regarded as a top-level keeper in world cricket. He has a great analytical mind, and was an exceptional leader being labelled as “captain cool” and is even now perhaps mentoring the team. However, at 37 years, he is neither a brisk scorer nor a lead finisher. Specially against spin, he is finding it extremely hard to force the pace of scoring, understandably so with advancing age! So, what should be his role till the world cup 2019? I feel it should be that of a strategic thinker. He should selectively play where the pitches are very difficult to bat on. After Virat Kohli, he still is the best man to bat on tough conditions and situations and for ensuring that the full quota of 50 overs are utilized. For this reason alone, Ajinkya Rahane merits consideration for overseas games. When facing Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Ben Stokes, Mitchell Starc and the likes, someone like him may be a necessity in the middle order at no.5. for blunting the attack and holding the innings together. Otherwise for all conditions, Ambati Rayudu may now fill the one gap in the middle order, as he stands apart in terms of experience, dependability, technical soundness and above all the ability to consistently score quick runs, as exemplified during 2018 IPL.
The core of the team is almost formed as provided above. Who all should be the additional players? Using the concept of special talent, let’s zero-in from amongst the following batsmen: Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer and Mayank Agarwal. The former two are the ones to watch out for! In the pace bowling department, the suggested pool for additional selection are: Khaleel Ahmed (for being a left arm talented seamer), Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj. In the spin department, the extra options to look at, if required, are Ravichandran Ashwin and K. Gowtham.
Since Indian cricket is presently so rich in emerging talent, it may make greater sense in selecting these special talents. let’s do away from selecting the good and the very good ones, particularly in the pure batting and bowling departments, unless compelled by reasons of “horses for courses” in certain situations!!!