Playing for India is a major honour, one which comes with sheer persistence, immense grit and an enormous amount of dedication. Every player aspires to represent India at the big stage and it won’t be wrong to say that the joy associated with doing so is beyond measure.
Over the years, numerous players have represented The Men in Blue on the international stage, out of which few managed to stick around courtesy of their commendable deeds on the field while few retained their place because of what one might say- ‘Luck’.
India is one of the top cricketing nations of the world and the pressure associated with representing the subcontinent giants on the international stage is massive. Any player is prone to be axed and that is where good fortune comes into the picture.
Cricket fanatics and experts will agree to the fact there have been some instances in the past where a player received a lot of opportunities and despite not performing at the desired level, somehow managed to stay in the side. They failed to make the most out of the opportunities presented to them. There were also some players who didn’t necessarily deserve to get an opportunity but did for reasons beyond our comprehension.
India in 2019 had been relentless and dominating. They won a Test series in Australia for the first time in their cricketing history and had a superb World Cup only to be ousted in the semi-finals. They are clearly ruling the ICC World Test Championship table standings and don’t seem to be moving from that spot anytime soon.
Keeping that in mind, here’s looking at 5 such players who were lucky to be a part of this Indian setup in 2019:
1. Vijay Shankar
A seam-bowling all-rounder, Shankar failed to leave a mark on his maiden outing for India — during the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka in 2018 — but has made his presence felt for the A side.
Vijay Shankar made his ODI debut in late 2018 and through some solid all-round performances made it to the Indian setup for the mega event- ICC World Cup 2019 as the designated No. 4 batsman ahead of Ambati Rayudu. His selection triggered a war of words on Twitter as not many fans were convinced that Shankar deserved a spot in India’s World Cup squad.
During the World Cup campaign, Shankar injured his toe and was ruled out of the tournament. Post that, he was unable to regain full form and fitness and hasn’t been able to make it back into the Indian team in LOIs. In the current Indian team setup, where everyone is striving and working towards excellence, the lanky Tamil Nadu all-rounder should consider himself lucky to have played for India in ODIs in 2019.
2. Kedhar Jadhav
When it comes to street smartness, there are few in the current Indian team’s limited-overs set-up, who can match Kedar Jadhav’s on-your-feet thinking. But in recent times Jadhav has been the most under-utilised cricketer, which has led to varied opinions as to whether he is an ideal fit in India’s ODI team combination despite averaging 42 plus in 69 games.
Jadhav, who had sustained a hamstring injury in the past, bowled only 24 overs in his last 13 ODI games which is even less than two overs per game. Worse is that he hasn’t got a single wicket and in four of these games, he wasn’t even asked to bowl.
While batting great VVS Laxman feels that one needs to introspect whether soon-to-be 35 Jadhav is a contender for a place in the squad for the 2023 World Cup, when he will be 38, many former Indian players and now experts feel that Jadhav doesn’t deserve to get a continued run in the Indian team. His uncanny bowling action makes for fun viewing but the novelty factor of having him bowl every game has gone.
With the likes of Hardik Pandya and to an extent Shivam Dube breathing down his neck to nail the No. 6 slot, its high time the selectors look beyond Kedhar Jadhav. For what has been a very disappointing year for Jadhav in 2019, he is certainly lucky to find a place in India’s ODI setup even now.
3. Khaleel Ahmed
Khaleel Ahmed makes the list for obvious reasons. He has been misfiring on a consistent basis in T20Is. It’s only because he offers something different- ‘left-arm medium-fast’ facet that he is still being considered to play for India. Even on that front, India could have possibly given a longer run to Jaydev Unadkat or Barinder Sran instead of persisting with Ahmed for this long.
Former Indian captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth has come out hard on India pacer Khaleel Ahmed who has been in the spotlight for his below-par performance in the T20I series against Bangladesh.
Khaleel Ahmed has conceded 81 runs in the 8 overs he has bowled for India in the last 2 T20Is with his spells reading 1/37 and 1/44. He also created an unwanted streak in the Rajkot T20I where he had conceded 7 boundaries off his 7 consecutive deliveries in the T20 international. However, despite the underwhelming performance, India persisted with the left-arm pacer in the series decider as well.
He needs to improve on his death overs bowling skills and temperament. As of now, he is far too easy to predict and is proving to be a liability for Virat Kohli.
4. Shivam Dube
Shivam Dube would probably be the first person to accept that Lady Luck has been smiling on him of late. Not undermining his ability any bit, Dube has been at the right place at the right time to break through into the Indian team. Owing to a few factors discussed below, he has been fast-tracked in India colours on the back of just a handful of domestic games. It is not often that a young player makes it through to Team India without going through the grind of first-class cricket.
In December 2018, Dube hit five successive sixes in a Ranji Trophy match, just a day before the IPL auctions, to attract the attention of the franchises. The next day he was picked by Royal Challengers Bangalore for a whopping sum of 5 crore INR. Unfortunately, Dube had a forgettable IPL season. The focus of the country now shifted towards the ODI World Cup, where Hardik Pandya came of age. Vijay Shankar was No. 2 in the medium-pace bowling all-rounder pecking order.
Post the World Cup, Pandya got injured and Shankar fell out of favour. At the same time, Dube started producing consistent performances. He starred when South Africa A toured India, ending as the leading run-scorer for the hosts with 155 runs from four innings at a strike rate of almost 145.
Dube was extremely lucky and fortunate that the Indian team management decided to promote him at one drop in Trivandrum ahead of Virat Kohli. However, Dube certainly hasn’t done anything to merit his place in India’s plans for the T20 World Cup. He is just lucky that Hardik Pandya is out due to an injury, as once he’s back Dube would be out of the team. His only hope is to make the most of the remaining opportunities he gets against Sri Lanka before Pandya’s return and make a strong case for himself.
5. Shardul Thakur
It’s not easy being a fast bowler trying to break into the Indian team these days—the competition is intense. With many skilful and experienced pacers in the set-up, where does Shardul Thakur fit in?
The Mumbai bowler’s ability to handle his nerves shines through in the high-pressure white-ball format. It proved vital in India’s final international of 2019, against West Indies, where he played a cameo to power the team home in Cuttack.
It is this quality that endears him to his captains, impressing MS Dhoni first and now Virat Kohli. They have more effective bowlers at their disposal but Thakur’s captains are aware that when the fight reaches the trenches, Thakur will be up for it.
He is mainly an injury backup for frontline options like Bhuveshwar Kumar or Deepak Chahar in T20Is and going by his lacklustre ODI returns, he doesn’t deserve to be given a continued run in ODI’s when the main seamers are out injured. He is included in the team to face off against Australia soon, but he must consider himself very lucky to play for India in 2019- he can thank other fast bowlers for getting injured to allow him to play for India last year.
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