World Cup in mind, selectors take stock

Irfan Pathan didn't get a game as India won the Champions Trophy in England earlier this year. Before the tournament, the pacer all-rounder was seen as someone who would give the perfect balance to the side playing away from the sub-continent. The world was in for a surprise, as the pitches in England turned out to be dry and abrasive. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja couldn't believe their luck. The two spinners snapped 20 wickets between them.

Seven months on, the focus has now shifted to the next big ICC event—the ODI World Cup in Australia-New Zealand early next year. Once again the guessing game has started. There is a general consensus in the cricketing circles that the pitches at Perth, Sydney, Dunedin or Napier will provide lateral movement and the conditions will make the ball swing in the air.

And that's the reason, 29-year-old Stuart Binny finds himself in the ODI squad for the New Zealand tour. The Karnataka all-rounder has piled runs, taken wickets and, most importantly, shed weight. It remains to be seen if Binny will be pacer-all rounder who will exploit the conditions and come handy with both bat and ball during the World Cup next year. This plan will work provided the pitches Down Under behave the way they have historically done.

Along with a pacer-all rounder, the national selectors also seem to be looking for a tearaway speedsters, who can intimidate the rivals and give the team early breakthroughs. Till recently, Umesh Yadav fitted that bill perfectly. But after he picked up just one wicket in pace-friendly conditions in South Africa, there was a need for another audition. This resulted in Varun Aaron, the bowler capable of bowling upwards of 145 kph, getting a call. Mohit Sharma making way for Ishwar Pandey, two pacers with similar skill sets, too is a case of weighing all options. Sharma and Yadav haven't been written off it is just that they have been asked to wait in the wings. This isn't a case of chopping and changing. This is selectors taking a stock of the arsenal at their disposal.

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