Current event, not 2019 World Cup, the focus
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When the senior selection committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) sat down to pick the Indian team for the Champions Trophy being played in England till 18 June, they must have surely given some thought to what was to follow two years later, again in England—the 2019 World Cup.
Not really, it turns out. M.S.K. Prasad and company simply picked what was in their opinion the best possible 15 in the current scheme of things.
It helps that except for two players, the rest are all either in their 20s or early 30s, which means that form and fitness permitting, they will all be around for the World Cup.
The two players on the wrong side of 30 (both 35 actually) are Mahendra Singh Dhoni, still one of the fittest cricketers around, and Yuvraj Singh. Heading into the selection, which itself was delayed thanks to the BCCI-International Cricket Council standoff over revenue sharing, there was much talk of at least Singh, despite his scores of 15, 150 and 45 in his last three One Day Internationals (against England), making way for a younger man.
But as Roger Binny, a former India selector and one of the heroes of India’s 1983 World Cup win in England, put it, selection committees think more of the present.
“My committee never really thought of a tournament in the future, say two years on, while picking a squad. We did keep an eye on potential talent but we only picked what we thought to be the best combination to win that tournament,” Binny said.
Not even the fact that the World Cup was to be played in the same country would have a made a difference to this committee, says Krishnamachari Srikkanth, who was the chairman of the committee that picked the 2011 World Cup winning squad.
“Look, the Champions Trophy is a mini world cup where all the top teams are present. Why would we experiment in such a scenario?” says Srikkanth. “Yes, since the World Cup is being held in England, you could be tempted to think two years down the line but basically, we would have thought, ‘Let’s pick a team to win the Champions Trophy first and then start thinking of the world cup’.”
The two years between the tournaments would have been the clincher for Srikkanth. “Two years is a long time, so seen in that light, it’s prudent to stick to the present,” says Srikkanth, a former India captain and opening batsman.
Prasad, the current chairman of selectors, couldn’t agree more. “Experience is of paramount importance in a big tournament like the Champions Trophy,” he said at the post-selection press briefing in New Delhi.
This experience could come in handy during the World Cup too. It will thus be interesting to see whether the Champions Trophy turns out be the swansong for the likes of Dhoni and Singh or if they will they use the tournament as their lead-up to the World Cup.