India in Australia 2015-16 December 20, 2015

Raina on notice, Dhawan given backing

Five talking points from the India squads named for the upcoming limited-overs tour to Australia

The move to drop Suresh Raina suggests there are still question marks over his quality after 223 ODIs and two World Cups © AFP

The ODI squad

Shikhar Dhawan has been shown immense faith. Not in that he has been picked in the squad - the argument against picking him would be only one fifty in his last 13 international innings - but in the fact that there are only five established specialist batsmen in the ODI squad. Already we are looking at either Gurkeerat Mann or Manish Pandey getting a decent run at No. 6, but what if Dhawan continues to fail? There is no back-up. On all of his last three tours outside Asia, Dhawan had to be dropped. He was left out in the ODIs in New Zealand, and Tests in England and Australia. To be fair to him, though, Dhawan came back with runs in Tests in New Zealand, the ODIs in England and the World Cup in Australia.

Suresh Raina has been served notice. What should disturb Raina more is that this is not a form issue. That there are still question marks over his quality after 223 ODIs and two World Cups. There is a certain ruthlessness to this move. As if the selectors are saying, "We know you are great in the field, we know you chip in with the ball, we know you are selfless when it comes to your batting order, but where are the runs? Consistent runs. Against a relatively bigger pool of opposition in relatively varied conditions." Raina responded well to such an ultimatum, when he came back from his axe last year with a century in England, but will he keep getting that second chance again and again?

From the selectors' point of view, the decision would have been made easier by the fact that the big ODI events - Champions Trophy and World Cup - are not around the corner. It gives time to a newcomer to bed in, and also for Raina to scream out for another chance by scoring runs elsewhere.

The presence of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja gives India a bowling comfort zone and some depth in batting © AFP

The T20 squad

The kind of selection where you want to be proved wrong. He is 34 years old. When he was 30, he was the face of India's World Cup win. At 26, he did it for them in the T20 format. Those are the memories you want to remember Yuvraj Singh by. Not the cruel rotten last international he played, a struggling match-losing 11 off 21 in the World T20 final in Dhaka last year. You don't want him exposed to any more of that. Ironically the only plausible reason to get him back is to play the role he failed to do in Dhaka: hit big from ball one, a game the other established batsmen in that order struggle to play.

Yuvraj has been picked ahead of Shreyas Iyer, who is young and has seemed a cut above the other batsmen in domestic cricket this season. Then again, there is still a lot of time and matches to go before the World T20, which is the ultimate focus of these selections. And there is a youngster in the squad - Hardik Pandya - who can be asked to play a similar role.

The selectors seem to recognise there is no long-term in T20 cricket. Take your punts. If the guy is the right-shaped plug for the hole right now, hammer it in. Ashish Nehra is not going to be around for too long, that much is known, but in a four-over game he has shown in the IPL that he can do a job with his experience and yorkers. He gives India the left-arm option that they lack. This is a gamble, but this is a gamble with little to lose. For what were the young Indian quicks doing before Nehra? They can get back to doing the same should Nehra fail in Australia. Not many will have missed that.

Overall selection

India's bowling comfort zone is back. R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami give India a comfort zone. Since the start of the tri-series in Australia last year, India have been without their bowling comfort zone in limited-overs cricket. Jadeja was injured and then dropped; Shami was spectacular in the World Cup but injured and hence out ever since. At their best, Shami, Jadeja and Ashwin provide India 30 overs of control and incision. The presence of Jadeja and Ashwin at nos 7 and 8 gives MS Dhoni the freedom to play his shots and pull the trigger suitably early. The three are part of the same squad again; if they are at their best, India could revive their limited-overs fortunes dramatically.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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