MSK Prasad, the chairman of India’s senior selection panel, indicated that Virat Kohli could be rested from some of India’s upcoming matches after being on the road non stop.
Prasad, whose panel picked the Indian squads for the Twenty20 International series against New Zealand and the first two Tests against Sri Lanka on Monday (October 23), said that the rotation policy the team has been following applied to Kohli too.
“Considering the workload and the international schedule that we have right now, we are definitely rotating players,” said Prasad. “It’s too premature to say right now whom we are (resting). We will let you know at the appropriate time. One thing is for sure, we are definitely going to rotate and monitor the workload.
“With regard to Virat Kohli, there is some speculation that he is going to be rested for the whole Sri Lankan series, it is not right. As far as the Test series is concerned, he is going to play, and at some point of time, the rotation policy that we are following will apply to the captain. We are also monitoring his workload, he has been playing continuously right from IPL till today. We need to give him a break which we will consider after the Test series.”
Kohli was named captain of a 16-man squad for the first two Tests against Sri Lanka, with the first match starting on November 16 and the second on November 24. The third Test starts on December 2 and will be followed by three ODIs and three T20Is. With the Indian team scheduled to leave for South Africa only towards the end of December, Kohli could get a month off if he is rested after the second Test.
Ahead of India’s limited-overs leg of the tour of Sri Lanka in August-September, Prasad had suggested that if it so happened that MS Dhoni was not performing, then the selectors might need to look at alternatives. During the ODIs in Sri Lanka and against Australia at home subsequently, Dhoni played several good hands but the team experimented with the batting order a fair bit, which meant Dhoni was often walking out at different positions.
Asked how he assessed Dhoni’s performance so far, Prasad lauded the former skipper and said there was no cause for concern.
“If you see, there definitely has been an improvement. He is really doing well, so as of now there’s no real cause of concern,” observed Prasad. “He is still one of the best wicketkeeper-batsmen we have, not only in India but also in the world. The batting order is not just about MS but also about other positions. There’s something going on prior to a big event. Six or seven months prior to the World Cup, we should have a consolidated batting line-up and then we should stick to it.”
Prasad had also said that KL Rahul would be batting at No. 4 earlier, though that didn’t come to pass with any regularity either. Rahul was dropped from the team that is currently 1-0 down in a three-ODI series against New Zealand, and the chairman said the selectors were looking at the Karnataka batsman as an opener once again.
“The potential that KL Rahul has, it is unfortunate that we are not able to accommodate him (in the XI), so we tried him at the No. 4 slot,” said Prasad. “Unfortunately that it did not work out (Rahul only batted once at No. 4, and in only three ODIs in Sri Lanka), but basically we know that KL Rahul is an opener, so since Ajinkya Rahane has done well, it makes sense to continue with Ajinkya Rahane and bring in a specialist at the No. 4 spot.”
Elaborating further on the fact that no player had really nailed down the No. 4 spot, Prasad admitted it was something the management and selectors had discussed. “The team management, the selection committee, all of us are definitely concerned about it,” he acknowledged. “And that’s the reason we are trying (out different players), before a big event comes up or before we finalise a squad for a major event. By then, we will try out different options. There are some guys who are doing (well) at India A, we will keep trying options before we close on a particular squad.”
R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have both been out of favour with the selection committee for white-ball cricket, and with Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal finding success in the limited-overs teams, there was some speculation over whether the two younger spinners would supplant the veterans in Test cricket too. Prasad, however, said there were no such plans. “Still premature,” he offered, “because we have the No. 1 and 2 in the world bowling for India. Having a wrist-spinner is always an added advantage but we are very happy with the way Ashwin and Jadeja have been bowling for us, and the way they have been winning matches for us.”
Prasad also said that the relationship between his panel and the team management was a cordial one, with decisions taken in unison and plans set in place considerably in advance.
“With regard to our relationship with the team management, it has been cordial so far,” he said. “There is lot of speculation that the team management is dominating, which is not right. They are very much on the advisory board and that’s all. This selection committee takes the final call. We work in unison.
“We have a clear-cut template about who should be there, while somebody has to be given rest. When a youngster (plays), we have a succession plan, so we follow that pattern, it has got nothing to with a player or anybody requesting for a farewell game,” he added, referring to Ashish Nehra’s planned retirement after the first T20I against New Zealand on his Feroze Shah Kotla home ground. “This is not today’s decision, these decisions are taken three or four months before. There are lots of discussions that happen with regard to selections. The teams that we have picked today have been discussed for the last one or two months. There is so much of debate that goes on behind selecting any particular team.”