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  1. The year 2018 was really crucial for the Indian cricket team. The Virat Kohli-led side didn't just appear clinical at home but also proved their credentials in the multiple overseas series they played. Testing young blood with experienced campaigners, the new-look Indian team has now established themselves as serious contenders for the ICC World Cup in England & Wales. In a bid to find the perfect team, the Indian selectors and team management were seen trying all possible options in specialist roles in the recent series. And, it finally boiled down to 15th April when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced the 15-man squad for the ICC mega event. While the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli will be seen occupying the top-order, the inclusion of KL Rahul, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya all provide adequate options to the Indian team in the middle-order. The bowling department looks well equipped with Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar bolstering the pace attack and the likes of Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja adding teeth as spinners. BREAKING: India have named their #CWC19 squad! pic.twitter.com/mMXt5kAG6Y — Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) April 15, 2019 Though the Indian squad looks perfectly balanced, the notable omissions of Rishabh Pant and Ambati Rayudu have irked cricket pundits and fans alike. Both Pant and Rayudu were in the fray for the World Cup, but the Indian selectors showed faith in Karthik and Shankar to do the job for India in the all-important World Cup. While Pant staked his claim to a World Cup spot on the back of blazing batting performances, Rayudu, too, was looked upon as a potential candidate who could solve India's No. 4 problem. However, the Indian selectors thought otherwise and in a bid to derive team balance, they went for safer and more proven options in Karthik and Shankar. There is no doubt over Pant's ability with the willow. On his day, the dashing left-hander is more than capable of running away with the game on the back of innovative strokes he boasts of in his armoury. But, Pant is a gamble in any game. On a day, his shot might come off and on the other, it won't. And, there's little doubt over his unpredictable batting. © BCCL However, Pant's omission for Karthik wasn't decided just on batting. The fact that India needed an extra wicket-keeping option is probably what ruined Pant's chances. While the young gun is undeniably a batting star for the future, his wicket-keeping skills are still a work in progress - something that probably gave Karthik leverage in his selection. "In unison, we all felt either Pant or DK will come into the XI if Mahi (Dhoni) is injured. "If it's a semi-final or an important game, wicket-keeping also matters. That's the only reason we went ahead with Dinesh Karthik. Otherwise, Rishabh Pant was almost there," MSK Prasad, the chief national selector, revealed. The competition between Shankar and Rayudu was also decided on similar lines. Rayudu was being looked upon as a viable No. 4 option after he showed consistency with the willow in the recent series. But, barring his batting might, Rayudu doesn't bowl (thanks to an ICC ban in January) and his fielding, alone, is just not good enough to make the cut. © BCCL On the other hand, Shankar has proven his mettle in the limited opportunities he got. His batting bolsters the Indian middle-order, while his medium-paced deliveries provide an extra bowling option to the 'Men in Blue'. And then, when it comes to fielding, Shankar's 'bullet throw' in the first T20I against New Zealand earlier in February should put all the doubts to rest. “After the Champions Trophy, we tried quite a few middle-order batsmen. We also tried Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey. We gave a few chances to Rayudu, but what Vijay Shankar offers is three-dimensional. Apart from his batting, he can bowl if the conditions are overcast, which we might encounter in England. And he's a fantastic fielder. That's what went in Shankar's favour. He's a batsman who can bowl. We're looking at him at No.4 (to begin with). With Dinesh Karthik in and Kedar Jadhav, we've plenty of options at No. 4 right now," Prasad said. Though it's a little too early to predict whether the inclusion of Shankar and Karthik ahead of Pant and Rayudu will work out, it surely gives India enough balance to adapt to the tournament as it progresses to the knockout stages.
  2. Going into the 2018 Asia Cup, the Indian cricket team was nursing its ego following their yet another Test series debacle in England. And, when the Indian selectors decided to rest Virat Kohli for the tournament, it was quite understandable to see Pakistan being labelled as favourites to win the Asia Cup. But, it wasn't the case. If Pakistan's mediocre performances and inability to even reach the final surprised everyone, the prolific outing of the Indian team - sans skipper Kohli - proved that it is more than just a one-man show. Whether it was their batting, bowling or fielding, Team India turned out to be too good a side for the opponents. © Twitter/BCCI Amongst the many contributing factors behind their successful campaign, Rohit Sharma was arguably the one that stood out amongst the rest. If his batting got the Indian fans on their feet to celebrate his genius, Rohit's leadership skills were hailed by cricket bigwigs, as his side remained unbeaten on their way to win the Asia Cup crown. For a man who was heavily criticised for his batting woes in England, Rohit made the most of his time in the Asia Cup, scoring 317 runs including two fifties and a hundred in the five matches he played. It was his artistry with the willow at the top that helped India get off to good and strong starts against the likes of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Hong Kong in the tournament. © BCCL Given his exploits, it's needless to say that Rohit was undeniably one of the top performers in the tournament - something that would have surely silenced his naysayers. With Rohit helping India claim their seventh Asia Cup title, many expected the 31-year-old to make the cut for the upcoming two-match Test series against West Indies. But, on the contrary, the 'Hitman' was excluded from the Indian squad. To the sheer disbelief of fans, the Indian selectors decided to include Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari and omitted Rohit in the 15-member squad for the home series against the Windies. The decision irked former Indian cricketers as well as the fans, who expressed their displeasure at Rohit's exclusion. No @ImRo45 in test team against West Indies..what r the selectors thinking actually??? Anyone have a clue ??? plz let me know as I can't digest this — Harbhajan Turbanator (@harbhajan_singh) September 30, 2018 Great win Rohit and the team @ImRo45 ..u were exceptional...I get surprised every time I don't see ur name in the test team ..it's not far away .. — Sourav Ganguly (@SGanguly99) September 29, 2018 @sganguly99 feels @imro45 will soon be a part of the Indian test squad and has expectations from him. Do you think Rohit Sharma should be a part of the test squad as well? — VINOD KAMBLI (@vinodkambli349) September 29, 2018 Everyone is like Rohit Sharma was a big failure in South Africa as if KL Rahul Pujara Rahane ne SA aur England mein Jhande gaad diye#INDvWI — Riya (@riyaasrkk) September 29, 2018 The way @ImRo45 played against Pakistan for the super 4's match was not the usual way he plays, he played slow similar to what is played in test matches..!! #RohitSharma led the team to victory in #AsiaCup2018 still he is not picked up against West Indies WHY? @BCCI — Sneha Gaonkar (@snehajgaonkar) September 30, 2018 Exclusion of Rohit sharma from Indian team for test against West indies is inexplicable. Damn this selection committee — reghupillai (@ragpill) September 30, 2018 Dear @BCCI why dropped Rohit Sharma from test squads IND vs WI??.. sme on u....plz don't include politics in cricket... it's a not a game it's a emotions.... I want reply from you ...why dropped????? He is nt doing good job? He is not md run in Asia cup?? #RohitSharma — Himanshu Kumar Gupta (@Himansh04662117) September 30, 2018 As @SGanguly99 said, non inclusion of @ImRo45 in the test squad palying against WI is surprising. As the test team is not so rigid because of the brittle batting lineup, series against WI who are comparitively a weaker side is an oppertunity to find out a formula for the right... — Sarath Sagar K V (@sarathsagarkv) September 30, 2018 #INDvWI Cruel of selectors & @imVkohli to have left out @ImRo45 from Test squad.Wasn't Rahane retained?Rohit's Test career has almost been destroyed by his frequent omission from Test team.Rohit is class.On current form, isn't he the best to open in Tests & to have led TestXI too — Manauwarul Haque (@haquem22) September 29, 2018 Rohit might have missed out in the longest format lately, but there is no doubt about his abilities with the willow. Even if he is deemed unpredictable at the top of the order, a batsman of his calibre - especially given his sublime form - would have surely been a good addition to India's shaky middle-order against West Indies. Team India will host West Indies for two Tests, five One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and three Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) in a month-long tour. The two teams will lock horns in the first Test at Rajkot on 4th October. Test Squads India: Virat Kohli (c), KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur. West Indies: Jason Holder (c), Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Jahmar Hamilton, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope (wk), Alzarri Joseph, Keemo Paul, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach, and Jomel Warrican.
  3. Trailing 0-2 in the five-match series, the Indian cricket team scripted a resounding comeback after securing a 203-run win over England in the third Test at Trent Bridge. The victory didn't just keep India alive, but it also allowed their fans to dream on for a historic Test series win in England. But, it wasn't meant to be. What began as a promise of better things to come, eventually turned into heartbreak and disappointment as Virat Kohli's men slumped to a 60-run loss at the Ageas Bowl in the fourth Test. India's loss meant that the hosts romped to a 3-1 win with one game still left to play in the series. But, there was a lot to ponder for the visitors. © Reuters The poor run of Indian openers in the series had instigated calls for Prithvi Shaw's inclusion for the fifth Test, while the middle-order woes of the visitors also demanded a few changes going into the final match of the series. Having lost the series, the Indian team was expected to make some noticeable changes in their line-up at the Kennington Oval. But, India's playing XI didn't really go down well with cricket pundits or the fans. There was no change at the top as KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan got another opportunity at the expense of young Shaw. Ravichandran Ashwin, whose struggles in the fourth Test were crucial in India's loss, was dropped to make way for Ravindra Jadeja. But, the surprising change came in the form of Hanuma Vihari, who replaced Hardik Pandya. Vihari, who was only included in the squad for the final two Tests, was handed a debut despite the fact that someone like Karun Nair, a triple centurion who was named in the side for the series, hasn't played a single game. In a series where the Indian middle-order has been exposed, Nair's technically-sound batting could have probably been the answer, but the Indian team management thought otherwise and opted for Vihari instead. © Reuters But, the move didn't impress Sunil Gavaskar who came down hard on the team management. "He (Karun) is not your favourite player. The selectors seem to have brought him. Don't think the team management likes him. He has every right to ask the team management why he is not in the team. He deserves an answer. You didn't pick an extra specialist batsman earlier, but now that you have, Karun Nair deserves an answer," Gavaskar said. Apart from Gavaskar, the social media was also abuzz with Karun's exclusion from the fifth Test as cricket bigwigs and fans condemned the Indian team management's decision. It's quite intriguing that no one is talking about the possibility of playing Karun Nair...If India wants to play 6 batsmen, he should be the first choice. If bowling a little is the deal-breaker, it's another matter... #EngvInd — Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) September 7, 2018 India's selectors have just made a damning statement of what they think of Karun Nair as a player. Very very hard on him. Would love to know what he was told when the team was announced. — Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) September 7, 2018 India A capt Karun Nair who scored an unbeaten treble hundred against England hasn't batted in the nets at The Oval & no journalist writes about it. They all seem to be interested in off the field match between Ganguly & Shastri. This is what modern cricket journalism is. Sad — Makarand Waingankar (@wmakarand) September 7, 2018 Indian team is losing in England because of Virat Kohli's overweening attitude. He plays favourites. Not picking Pujara in the first test, playing an unfit Ashwin in the 4th, and picking up Vihari ahead of Karun Nair are but a few of these examples. Great batsman, poor leader. — Sanjay Dixit सà¤à¤à¤¯ (@Sanjay_Dixit) September 7, 2018 I have immense respect for, and am a huge fan too, of both Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli. But the selection of Hanuma Vihari ahead of Karun Nair is the mother and father of the duo's baffling selections. Sorry! #ENGvIND — Arun Gopalakrishnan (@statanalyst) September 7, 2018 Shock Test debut for Hanuma Vihari (predictable after practice sessions last couple days, but still!) Meanwhile, Karun Nair is busy twiddling thumbs in some part of London. #EngvInd — Chetan Narula (@chetannarula) September 7, 2018 Would not like to be Karun Nair right now. Sat through the Afghanistan Test and now the England series. Not considered when finally India adds a batsman. — Saurabh Malhotra (@MalhotraSaurabh) September 7, 2018 Hanuman Vihari getting a test match ahead of Karun Nair is perplexing. Karun must have been singularly unimpressive in the nets. Reminds me of 1986, where when Chetan Sharma was injured, Madan Lal who was playing League cricket was preferred to Prabhakar who was in the squad. — Joy Bhattacharjya (@joybhattacharj) September 7, 2018 Good luck to Hanuma Vihari on debut, but just what has Karun Nair done wrong? For five four Tests he has served drinks as India's top order has let their bowlers down. And he still can't get a game. #ENGvIND #KarunNair — Anand Vasu (@anandvasu) September 7, 2018 If Karun Nair retires from Test cricket today he will retire with the best Test average in the history of Indian cricket. Over 60)) — shishir hattangadi (@shishhattangadi) September 7, 2018