Team India’s selection dilemma?

“Horses for Courses!” OR “One Size Fits ALL”

So, where is Team India missing a trick? 12 years and NO ICC WC Trophy in the Cupboard? Team India was outclassed by New Zealand at the ICC ODI World Cup in 2019 and then again at the ICC Test Championship Final in Southampton in 2021. Then came the T20 World Cup Semi Final debacle against England in 2022. Is India missing the World Champions tag by a whisker or is there a much larger problem at hand of being close, but yet – so far!

Let’s deep dredge into why Team India cannot get their hands on any of the coveted ICC Trophies.

Is it a “Horses for Courses” strategy that’ll amp up Team India’s chances?

So, should Team India develop and invest in specialist “Three Format Players” as opposed to first defining “how” to play each format in the first place and then selecting its format-based personnel. It’s the perennial chicken and egg story. Either ways, Team India needs course clarity and not just course correction to win any of the upcoming ICC Trophies. There’s maybe a leaf BCCI can take out of ECB’s success lately across formats at various Global ICC Events.

Does Team India have a dearth of domestic talent to discover or groom into ICC Event Winning Champs across formats? Absolutely not. India has its own strong Domestic Test Format (Ranji Trophy), ODI Format (Vijay Hazare) and T20 Format (Syed Mushtaq Ali). 38 Teams including state & services participate in all these formats with hundreds of players putting out some sterling performances.

Open up the Ranji Trophy domestic circuit this year 2022-2023 to see that players like Sarfraz Khan (982 Runs in 9 Innings), Shams Mulani (45 Wickets in 11 innings) and Shabaz Ahmed (498 Runs and 20 Wickets) and behold the talent India is producing. But, how many of these players have clarity as to how and when they can play for Team India? Are they even warming the bench for Team India on tours and gaining the deserved experience across any format? Not to forget are any of the domestic players focused on a particular format or are they just waiting to slotted in and experimented upon if and when inducted into the national squad.

The point being, that will Team India pick based on form, format or on Reputation?

Form is temporary, class is permanent! This is true, proven and yet highly debatable too. Form is almost like the T20 format in itself. It’s on that very day, whereas Class has air of a five-day Test Match about it. Sometimes, form can outweigh the class in a particular format. Especially in a T20 match as it is smaller in duration by nature it will give more chances for someone who’s got a lesser reputation to achieve greater results if he is coming off a purple patch with the bat or ball lately. Whereas, in a test format the fact that there are two innings over the course of five days with the pitch changing its nature almost like a chameleon, the classy reputed players outshine the others invariably.

In an ideal world, each format must have a particularly clear strategy peculiar to its format-based requirement. But what is Team India thinking currently? One format player or a Three format player? How things stand currently, it’s a hit and trial at the international level. Lots of players are shuffled across formats completely unrelated to their format-based success at the domestic level.

It seems all the domestic uncapped players are in all earnest truth are currently only auditioning for the billion-dollar baby of the BCCI – the Indian Premier League. That too through any format that they are playing. Well, isn’t that counterproductive in some sense to Team India’s goals of lifting ICC Trophies across formats sometime soon?

Domestic circuit is the breeding ground. It needs Clarity in its Success Indicators;

What if a player at a Ranji Trophy (the four days format) match got 379 runs lately, where would Team India slot him into? The T20, ODI or the Test squad? Meet Prithvi Shaw (379 runs in Ranji Trophy 2022-23 season) who has be superlative within the 4-day Test format, but was gratified by an induction into the T20 Team India Squad – not the Test Team. Doesn’t that sound contradictory and it sends confusing signals to all other domestic players too?

While I say that, one must admit that currently the overall health of domestic Indian Cricket looks quite encouraging though. Records are being smashed by the likes of Prithvi Shaw & Sarfraz Khan at domestic and international levels (Shubman Gill & Ishan Kishan both amassing 200+ scores) by Indians year on year. In all honesty, in a country of 1.5 billion you will get a handful of outstanding natural talent too. But, the majority of players have to be developed and nurtured by sending out clear signals of paving the pathway into the national squad.


Sam is an ex-cricketer having played for Singapore U23’s and at a semi professional level in England in the 1990’s. He is a cricke-preneur working on the online & offline space in partnership with stalwarts such as Mickey Arthur.


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