Former selector Saba Karim on Sanju Samson’s return, Prithvi Shaw’s prospects and more

India captaincy for Hardik Pandya during the upcoming T20Is in Ireland is a reward for his recent display of leadership skills during the Indian Premier League, former India cricketer Saba Karim said on Friday.

Ahead of India’s two-match T20 International tour of Ireland, wicket-keeper and former selector Karim shared his views on a range of topics in a virtual media interaction on Friday.

A new-look Indian team, led by Pandya, is set to play T20Is in Dublin in the last week of June. The 17-member squad has Bhuvneshwar Kumar as vice-captain and doesn’t included regulars like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami.

India squad for Ireland T20Is: Hardik Pandya named captain; Sanju Samson, Rahul Tripathi included

A number of new faces – like Rahul Tripathi, Arshdeep Singh and Umran Malik – have been included in India’s squad for the Ireland tour, while the likes of Suryakumar Yadav and Sanju Samson have made a comeback.

Karim gave his opinion on the squad combination with Pandya as captain, what the future could hold for Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan, and the form of Pant among other things during the interaction on Friday.

Here are excerpts:

On Hardik Pandya as captain …

It’s a just reward for his skills shown as a captain during the IPL and the way he has conducted himself on and off the field. I think that’s one of the biggest reason why the selectors have gone with him. It’s a great opportunity for him. I believe he does have the right kind of ability to take the team forward. The Gujarat Titans players rallied around him, which was aa good sign, and I’m sure the same thing will happen in the national side as well.

On the lack of experience in India’s bowling department for the Ireland tour …

I hope Umran Malik gets a chance. Because Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umran Malik have worked together for Sunrisers Hyderabad, so that combination will do well for India. We maybe don’t have that kind of experience at the international level, but all of them have had enough experience of IPL and that should hold them in good stead.

On Sanju Samson being in-and-out of the team …

Yes, to some extent it’s been a tough road for him. I think at times the selectors get swayed by the recency in performance. So if someone has done well in the IPL then you tend to look at such players instead of going back to the players who were selected previously. On some occasions that’s what has happened with Samson. But irrespective of whatever has transpired in the past, I think Sanju needs to look forward now. He has to realize that he is blessed with immense talent, and now it is in his hands di lui to make that count. This is a wonderful opportunity coming his way because he has the matches against Ireland, then there is the series against England and so many other games coming up before the selectors sit down to pick the T20 World Cup squad. He has immense potential and showed amazing maturity this season while leading the Rajasthan Royals. So all that should help him in the Ireland series.

On Prithvi Shaw’s prospects …

Right now there are a number of young openers ahead of Shaw in the pecking order. But that does not mean he can’t come back quickly. Because he’s blessed with an amazing repertoire of shots. You’ve seen in that in the past two seasons. One expects him to be more consistent and put up more runs on the board, which he is capable of. He also needs to work very hard on his fitness di lui so that he’s able to compete with the others. But I think he just needs to bide his time and keep piling on the runs, that’s all. For such youngsters, they have enough time to make a comeback to the national side.

On Rahul Tripathi’s inclusion …

I think he’s one player who understands the demands of T20 batting, and I think that is the biggest reason why the selectors have picked him for this series. He’s been an extremely selfless cricketer for any side that he has represented in the IPL. Over the past two seasons, one sensed that there is a lot of maturity in the way he approaches a T20 game. His game di lui has opened up much more, his technique di lui has improved, his defense di lui has become far more solid. And he has always been an attacking player, I think they have picked him at the right time. And now it is up to him to take his game forward in a positive manner so that he proves to be an asset even for the national side.

On the need for fitness to be a criteria while selecting captains …

I think the time has come now for the selectors and the team management to keep fitness criteria also as a benchmark to decide on the leadership role. If you have captains who are getting injured on a regular basis, then you need to take a call. Because eventually you need someone who is available to you for all the big patches. And if you have chosen a captain who is not available then that really affects the performance of the side and the preparation also.

On the possibility of Rishabh Pant being overburdened as captain …

Being the captain cannot be an overburden. It’s an honor and one must feel enriched that they’ve been asked to lead the side. This (the ongoing T20I series against South Africa) is a great opportunity for Pant to prove himself not only as a player but also as a captain. Having said that, I do believe there is so much more for him to achieve in white-ball cricket. There is immense potential in him but he’s yet to fully utilize that kind of talent and potential.

On Shikhar Dhawan’s chances of returning to the T20I side …

It’s going to be a tough one. I would not want to pass a judgment here but T20 is getting away from him now. The new faces that are emerging have done very well and seem to grow in confidence and with the experiences they’re getting at the international cricket. So whether it is Ishan Kishan or Ruturaj Gaikwad, there are so many of these young batters coming through. However, having seen Dinesh Karthik stage a remarkable comeback, he who knows what may happen one or two years down the line. Because Shikhar is still so fit, he still has that hunger to score runs, and he remains an essential part of one-day cricket for India.

India’s squad for the two-match T20I series against Ireland:

Hardik Pandya (c), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (vc), Ishan Kishan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sanju Samson, Suryakumar Yadav, Venkatesh Iyer, Deepak Hooda, Rahul Tripathi, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Yuzvendra Chahal, Axarhali Patel, Ravishno Patel , Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh, Umran Malik.

India’s tour of Ireland will be broadcast on Sony Six (English), Sony Ten 3 (Hindi) and Sony Ten 4 (Tamil & Telugu) channels on 26th and 28th June from 9:00 pm IST.

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