After dust settled, at least temporarily, in the fracas between the International Cricket Council and the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the three-man selection committee was finally allowed to do its job and pick a team to play in the Champions Trophy. As choices go, this was not a terribly challenging task.
The Indian One-Day International team wears a fairly settled look and with the key characters in the show fit, there was little doubt about what India’s best eleven would be. In the backdrop of the Indian Premier League, however, a certain buzz was created around the selection, with several young Indian cricketers having made a splash in the tournament.
The selectors, however, resisted the temptation to pick a 50-over squad based on a 20-over tournament, opting instead to go for stability and continuity. There are question marks over the form of some of India’s finest, but it would be a stretch to see any of these established players being left out for a major global tournament in favour of relatively untested youngsters.
What would have been interesting, however, is pitting the Indian team against a playing eleven comprising solely of Indian cricketers who caught the eye in the IPL and yet did not make it to the national team. This would have given the overlooked players another chance to prove themselves and also tested their suitability for the 50-over game. India’s schedule, unfortunately, does not allow for such experiments, and in any case, the BCCI is in such a state of disarray that there isn’t a leader of stature to take such a decision.
Sportskeeda, however, has no such constraints and presents a playing eleven from the IPL to take on India:
Robin Uthappa (12 matches, 386 runs, 167.82 strike rate)
Although a hamstring injury has not allowed Uthappa to make the most use of the IPL, the big-hitting opener from Bangalore has been in fine form for the Kolkata Knight Riders. Even the radical success of the pinch-hitter Sunil Narine at the top of the order has not deterred Uthappa from playing crucial hands when the team needed it.
Gautam Gambhir (14 matches, 454 runs, 127.88 strike rate)
For his leadership alone Gambhir walks into this team. Aggressive when needed, cautious when the situation demands it, Gambhir has been the stand out captain of the 10th season of the IPL. With the bat he has provided a calming influence and a wise head. His experience makes him an asset to this team.
Rahul Tripathi (12 matches, 388 runs , strike rate 150.97)
No uncapped batsman has impressed more with the range and sweetness of his stroke play in the IPL than Rahul Tripathi. He is confident enough to come down the pitch and attack the fastest of bowlers and plays the sweep effectively against spin. On more than one occasion he has shown that he has the knack of building an innings. Definitely one to watch out for.
Suresh Raina (14 matches, 442 runs, 143.97 strike rate)
When you pick a team based on IPL performances, perhaps the first name on the team sheet is Suresh Raina. Every single year he has come to the party, scoring runs by the bucketful and at pace. He can’t lead this team because Gambhir takes that role, but Raina is a shoo-in to control the tempo of the game from any batting position.
Shreyas Iyer (12 matches, 338 runs, 139.09 strike rate)
For a few years now Shreyas Iyer has been the player to watch around the traps in domestic cricket, irrespective of the format in question. In first class cricket, 50-over cricket and even the IPL, Iyer has impressed with his positive attitude and ability to hit the ball cleanly. Before long he will be knocking on the doors of the selectors, ensuring that he cannot be ignored.
Rishabh Pant (14 matches, 366 runs, 165.61 strike rate)
He can bat at the top of the order and he can finish games. Behind the stumps he is tidy, as you would expect from a wicketkeeper, but he saves the flashes of brilliance for his batting. Talented enough to take on the best in the business and come out on top, Pant was perhaps the closest of this eleven to make it to the Indian team. If Mahendra Singh Dhoni was not such a 50-over legend, Pant might have made the cut.
Axar Patel (14 matches, 15 wickets, 24.13 average)
An efficient left-arm spinner who has grown from being primarily known for firing darts into an all-round bowler, Axar Patel has combined the skills of taking wickets and bowling economically to great effect. Fluent with the bat and armed with a rocket throw, Axar can give a captain control with the ball and momentum with the bat.
Pawan Negi (12 matches, 16 wickets, 6.12 economy rate, 227 runs, 140.12 strike rate)
An IPL sensation known more for his price tag than his achievements in the tournament, Pawan Negi has slowly but surely shrugged off the pressure he was under and begun to express himself with bat and ball. A tight left-arm spinner who has enough variations to keep batsmen guessing, Negi can be deployed as a strike force when the occasion allows it.
Jaydev Unadkat (10 matches, 21 wickets, 13.28 average)
While some bowlers strive for pace in an attempt to unsettle batsmen, Jaydev Unadkar has mastered the art of taking the pace off the ball. While he can turn on the heat if the pitch affords pace and bounce, this IPL has been all about slower balls, cutters and seam movement. Unadkat may not have pace like fire, but he has the guile to take wickets.
Sandeep Sharma (13 matches, 17 wickets, 23.41 average)
The ability to swing the ball both ways with no perceptible change in action has ensured that Sandeep Sharma invariably picks up wickets in his first spell. These early breakthroughs set the team up perfectly, allowing the other bowlers to come into play as the innings unfolds. He can also seam the ball sharply when the pitch is abrasive, making him a handful in a variety of conditions.
Yuzvendra Chahal (13 matches, 14 wickets, 7.65 economy)
Wrist spinners tend to be expensive even as they capture wickets, but Yuzvendra Chahal has proven that it is possible to be accurate and economical. A fluent, repeatable smooth action and the discipline to bowl to his strengths has helped Chahal to be consistent. That he can come on to bowl in the power play overs or the death is an added bonus.
IPL XI : Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir (capt), Rahul Tripathi, Suresh Raina, Shreyas Iyer, Rishab Pant (wk), Axar Patel, Pawan Negi, Jaydev Unadkat, Sandeep Sharma, Yuzvendra Chahal.
(This article first appeared on the Sportskeeda website on 16 May, 2017)