Seconds after a much-anticipated tweet was generated from the corridors of the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai on Wednesday, there was something unusual about the latest 15-man outfit – the absence of what we've been accustomed to term an 'allrounder'. Asked about this anomaly of sorts a while later, the chairman of selectors Kris Srikkanth ducked the question with a warbled response: "We should look at what has been selected, what is available."
Well, we know who has been selected and who was not and who was available. But what do we make of it?
On the face of it, the selectors have grown weary of Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan and do not feel that Irfan Pathan, despite doing more than Jadeja in both the CB Series and the Asia Cup, is a viable option. That leaves Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma to fill in as allrounders, implying that they will be called on to bowl a significant amount of overs in Sri Lanka despite the possibility of India fielding two spinners (they have named three full-time spinners, with R Ashwin being relied on to bat at No. 8 and score runs).
But how much can we read into the absence of a specialist allrounder, considering that India's last 10 ODI squads included at least one allrounder and as many as three, against New Zealand in late 2010, when Yuvraj Singh was fit. The most common factor in these past 10 ODI series was the name of Jadeja, who featured in eight of those squads. In fact, when the selectors have picked just one allrounder it has been Jadeja; he was the sole allrounder in the West Indies and England and at home when England toured last year. In 24 matches played across those nine series, Jadeja took 28 wickets at 35.17 and scored 325 runs at 25. Decent returns, but not enough to hold down his place at No. 7. Jadeja then had a mixed IPL, where he averaged 15.91 with the bat and took 12 wickets at 22.75 from 19 games.
Yusuf was named in five of these past ten ODI squads, and played in 18 matches – six in the World Cup – and scored 405 runs at 33.75, including two ballistic centuries, and took 11 wickets at 42.18. But the selectors found him too inconsistent and not a viable wicket-taker, and so Yusuf was overlooked for four straight ODI assignments.
The contest for the No. 7 spot in India's ODI team has been a content_cnious one for some time, with its most frequent occupier, Jadeja, failing to impress despite plenty of opportunities. There have been more than murmurs about his selection being influenced by MS Dhoni, India's captain but perhaps more pertinently the captain of Chennai Super Kings, the IPL franchise owned by BCCI president N Srinivasan, and for whom Jadeja was purchased for a whopping $2 million (that's the amount the public was told) earlier this year. The absence of Jadeja suggests that the selection panel – due to change soon – isn't being influenced by Dhoni anymore.
A sign that the selectors were getting weary of Jadeja's ineffectiveness during a poor CB Series – in which he scored 101 runs and took three wickets from eight games – was when they recalled Yusuf for the Asia Cup in March. Yusuf played just one match in that tournament and didn't get a chance to bat, and then had a poorer IPL 5 than Jadeja, so there was perhaps little to judge him by.
Rohit’s bowling form for India A in the West Indies could have influenced the selectors' decision. Though he has struggled with the bat, Rohit has been a consistent wicket-taker with his offspin, taking 13 wickets on tour – nine in three unofficial Tests and a couple each in the one-dayers and Twenty20s. While Raina can be termed an allrounder in Twenty20 cricket, and in particular the IPL, he is not a regular bowler in ODI cricket for India. In 11 ODIs in 2012, Raina has bowled seven times, and of these he bowled more than five overs just twice – 10-0-44-0 in Brisbane and 7-1-30 in Dhaka. His economy rate in these matches was a steady 5.43 but a strike-rate of 154 shows how effective he's really been.
There are a few domestic allrounders worthy of being selected, so it can be argued that the options were slim when it came to allrounders.
Is this merely a reaction to poor form and hollow reputations? Does the BCCI feel that the squad selected can do the job against a team that India has had few troubles beating in the subcontinent in the past three years? Or is this a change of tide, with the selectors believing that allrounders of the likes of Jadeja and the Pathans aren't valuable enough? It is not entirely clear at the moment, but the answers may present themselves at the end of the Sri Lanka tour.