Selectors take the tough calls
Suresh Raina dropped for the England Test series; Yuvraj Singh axed for the last Test against England; Virender Sehwag excluded from the Pakistan and England limited-overs series; Gautam Gambhir dropped for the Australia Test series; and now Sehwag left out of the last two Tests against Australia.
Sandeep Patil's selection panel has been making tough calls, and there is a common strand to these decisions: the players who are being dropped are effectively being dropped from the playing XI, which takes the potentially unpopular decisions out of the hands of captain and coach.
In the first half of its one-year tenure, the new selection committee seems to have followed the policy: "If you don't want a player in the team, don't include him in the squad."
MS Dhoni and the erstwhile selection panel headed by Kris Srikkanth were hardly on the same page. As a result, R Ashwin, at the start of his career (he played only one of the 18 ODIs when he was a member of the squad then), the two Tiwarys - Manoj and Saurabh, and Rahul Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane were almost always left to carry drinks (and sometimes step in as substitute fielders).
More importantly, whenever the selectors tried to impose their authority - Nagpur 2010, for example - the move backfired. With the selectors keen on S Badrinath getting a game, they didn't name a reserve batsman in the squad. An injury to Rohit Sharma minutes before the toss meant Wriddhiman Saha ended up getting a Test cap as a specialist batsman.
The primary reason for such a lack of co-ordination is the BCCI rule that prevents the captain and the coach from having a say in selection of the squad, and the selectors in finalising the XI. But Patil and Co. seem to have found a workable formula. "This policy minimizes the risk of being at loggerheads with the team management," said a source close to the selectors. "It also increases the possibility of a reserve player getting an opportunity to play a few games."
It is not known what Dhoni feels about this strategy but it would fit in with his reluctance to ask senior pros to warm the bench in a Test match. Had it not been the case, VVS Laxman would have been dropped for the last Test, if not the third Test, in Australia after a poor run with the bat away from home. What happened in early 2012, ESPNcricinfo understands, was that Dhoni and Fletcher decided against provoking public outcry by dropping seniors.
The unconfirmed story is that Patil had a discussion with Dhoni before leaving out Sehwag from the Tests. The captain is believed to have told the chief selector it "won't be prudent" for Sehwag to be in the squad but not in the team.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo