One of the biggest questions that came up when the India selectors picked the T20 squad for the tri-series in Sri Lanka was why Mayank Agarwal, this season's most prolific run-scorer in domestic cricket, wasn't picked. MSK Prasad, the chief of selectors, has revealed that the Karnataka batsman is "in the queue" for a national call-up.
Agarwal has scored a record-breaking 2141 runs across formats this season and is set to play at least two more games for Karnataka in the 50-overs Deodhar Trophy starting March 4, as well as the Irani Cup four-day match for Rest of India. He struck five centuries in the Ranji Trophy, three half-centuries in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, and three hundreds and four fifties while leading Karnataka to the Vijay Hazare Trophy title.
"No player should be confused about where he stands," Prasad told PTI. "Our committee speaks to every player - even those who are [not] selected and try to give them a fair picture. Accordingly, I spoke to Mayank and told him that with his brilliant performances in domestic cricket, he has now definitely got himself in the mix (national team reckoning). I told him that he is now in the queue.
"We have followed a pattern in our selection process. Each and every national contender is in the queue and we don't believe that anyone can jump the queue. Mayank is a wonderful kid and he completely understood what I explained to him. He told me 'Sir, you are spot on and 'I am not in a hurry at all'."
Prasad also assessed India's recent tour of South Africa and said Jasprit Bumrah's emergence as a "Test match bowler" was a big gain from the tour. He also stated that Bumrah's "workload management'' is paramount for him, as they plan to use him for "important" Test series going forward.
Bumrah bowled a whopping 162.1 overs across the three formats on the tour, including 112.1 overs - more than anyone else - during the three-Test series, which saw him making his Test debut in the first Test in Cape Town.
"I am delighted with Jasprit's performance. We always had confidence in his abilities as he had done well for Gujarat in Ranji Trophy," Prasad said. "But now our primary goal is to monitor his workload very carefully with so much international cricket ahead. We need to be careful that he is not over-used.
"If you look at his action, it is a rare one and he can be prone to injuries. We need to use him for the important Test series coming ahead. For each and every fast bowler, the balance of workload is very important and the high-performance team will be monitoring it closely."
The other big gains for India on the tour were the performances of the two young wristspinners, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, who shared 33 wickets between them in India's emphatic 5-1 win in the ODI series.
"We always believed that wristspinners are wicket-taking investments that we had to make," Prasad said. "Both Chahal and Kuldeep have really lived up to our expectations. The most heartening aspect has been the pool that we have managed to create. We now have five quality spinners for three formats - Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel."
He also said that the endeavour of the current selection committee was to create proper bench strength and they are slowly but surely inching towards that goal.
"I attribute our team's success to the nice bench strength that we have. We have multiple players for each spot. Like we have rested Hardik Pandya for the Sri Lanka series and we want to create a back-up allrounder in Vijay Shankar."