India in Sri Lanka 2006 July 26, 2006

Mongia's inclusion a mature choice

Sanjay Manjrekar

Dinesh Mongia's inclusion in the Indian squad has been based on performance alone, asserts Manjrekar © Getty Images
Twenty matches to go before the World Cup ... This is how the Indian team would be looking at one-day cricket till March next year. And when the time comes to play that first World Cup game, India should feel that they have looked at all the options available and have picked the best 15 players for the tournament.

I would like to think that the selectors are still looking and their net is spread wide to include players showing either sparks of talent or strong performances. At the end of the 20 matches, the Indian team should consist of a unit that has been formed after a genuinely exhaustive exercise that would have lasted for more than a year. The team that goes to the West Indies should be a team where each player has proved his worth, regardless of his age, his past or his experience.

Based on these thoughts, I believe there should not be too much scrutiny of the team selected for the tri-series in Sri Lanka next month. Dinesh Mongia, who played in the last World Cup, is back in the Indian team after a long absence. There are various stories floating around regarding his selection, but I look at it as maturity on the part of the selectors. They have showed that although youth is an important consideration in their planning, they are not obsessed with it. This selection is on performance alone, though, quite interestingly, it is based on performances during the English county season.

Suddenly, performances in county cricket have become more and more relevant for the Indian team selections, with Sourav Ganguly and Zaheer Khan also staking their claims by playing for counties. This also means that the Indian players who do not play county cricket are somewhat disadvantaged. Mongia would clearly not have been back in this Indian team if not for his participation in county cricket.

With India playing round the year and having international commitments even in June, July and August, and with our domestic season finishing much before that in April, there are no match opportunities in India for the fringe players to make a strong case for selection, unless he is influential enough to get a county contract - a situation that the BCCI could make note of.

Anil Kumble's unbelievable perseverance as a bowler has got him back in the reckoning for one-day cricket, a possibility that was almost ruled out two years back as focus had shifted to youth and energy in the field. Though he has not been picked in the team for Sri Lanka, you can quite clearly gauge that he is a strong candidate for the World Cup. By not selecting him in the team but by keeping him well informed about their long-term plans with him, the selectors have shown the virtue of communication. The importance of a dialogue between players and selectors can never be underestimated.

Kumble is not in the India one-day team but he is not unhappy or hurt, for he has been motivated by the words passed on to him by the men in charge. This contact between players and selectors helps keep the harmony in the dressing room. Kumble has now reached a stage in his career where he does not need one-day match practice to excel in that form of the game. It is going to be a tough outing for India as they take on South Africa and Sri Lanka in testing weather conditions. Even after the 4-1 loss in the last one-day series in the West Indies, there is no denying the fact that India is still a very good one-day team. And unlike that series, they will be hoping that this time they return with more answers than questions.