Days after the squads were announced for India’s upcoming five-match T20 International (T20I) series against South Africa and the one-off Test against England, former chief selector MSK Prasad spoke to NDTV about Cheteshwar Pujara’s comeback, Umran Malik and more. Pujara was left out of the squad for India’s two-match series at home against Sri Lanka, but then went and scored runs aplenty for Sussex in the County Championship to make it tough to leave him out of the upcoming Test in England.
Speaking about the veteran batter, MSK Prasad called it an “unbelievable comeback”.
“Unbelievable. Only one word I can say is unbelievable comeback. This shows the commitment he has towards the sport and himself. It’s a wonderful story, ”Prasad told NDTV.
“Not many people would have believed what he has done. I think credit to him, the way he performed in the County to stake his claim of him in the Test team. Because all through his career di lui he has always been a Test cricketer, and had he not been there in this team, I think we would have missed him forever, ”he said.
“It’s only through his sheer performances. Otherwise, when we lost that South Africa series, not many people would have thought that he will make a comeback. But hats off to him. I think if he can do well and win this Test series for us, he will definitely have another couple of years of Test cricket career, ”the former selector claimed.
Speaking about Umran Malik, Prasad emphasized on the need to groom him and said that now that he has been picked, selectors must back him even if he has a few poor outings.
“What’s happening right now is that we don’t have too many India A tours happening right now. Had there been an India A tour, we would have straightaway put him into India A tour and we would have groomed him through the process, since we’ve identified him, “he said when asked if it was too early for the 22-year -old to make the step up to international cricket, despite a brilliant IPL season, which saw him pick 22 wickets from 14 matches.
“My only concern is we have identified a talent, but how do you preserve him for a longer period? That’s very, very important. Maybe the selectors would have thought that with the kind of pace he is generating, he might be a handy bowler in Australian conditions. My only concern is that, in that process if he doesn’t have a couple of good games against South Africa, maybe with the kind of pressure he might go through in international cricket, selectors should back him, “MSK Prasad said about the pace sensation.
“So in case if he does well, nothing like it. Even if he doesn’t do well, he should be backed and we should groom him through India A cricket, which is very, very important, very crucial for this kid. Because going through India A cricket would teach him a lot of things, like Mohammed Siraj, Deepak Chahar and all have gone through, so that will also teach him a lot, ”he said.
“I think he has delivered the quickest balls that Indian cricket has ever seen, so he’s a special talent. Hats off to that kid, hats off to all those people who backed him. Even the SRH management, credit should definitely be given to them. Initially, they wanted to drop him. There was lot of criticism to drop him, but the team management stuck with him. They backed him. So whenever the team management backs a player, this is the kind of results that happens. Hats off to their management. They have given a wonderful, wonderful cricketer to Team India, ”he concluded.
He also spoke about Rahul Tripathi missing out on the T20I squad for the South Africa series, despite a stellar season in the IPL.
“Even I felt a little touched with Rahul Tripathi missing out. But if you see from the selectors’ point of view, a guy like Venkatesh Iyer or Ishan Kishan, all these guys were part of your World Cup and subsequent tours, so suddenly removing them and giving another guy an opportunity … “
“I have a strong feeling that he is still in the scheme of things. In the coming tours, he will definitely be considered. He’s been doing well and this season was an excellent season for him. So he shouldn’t let himself down, with the kind of performances he has delivered, sooner or later he will definitely get an opportunity, ”Prasad said.
Another noteworthy exclusion from the T20I squad was that of Shikhar Dhawan.
“I thought they will consider Shikhar because if you’re looking at T20 World Cup, we’re going to have it in Australia. It will be all hard and bouncy tracks, where Shikhar is a proven customer. Shikhar is also a proven customer in ICC tournaments. So somewhere I felt that maybe they could have given him an opportunity in this series before completely overlooking him, ”MSK Prasad said.
“I personally felt that they should have tried him in this series. If they were not happy with him, they could have gone ahead. Maybe because Ishan Kishan and other guys have played the (2021 T20) World Cup, they are sticking on with them rather than trying out somebody else, I have a feeling like that. But I think Shikhar has definitely missed the bus. But they should have tried him this series. If they were still not happy with him, they should have gone past him, ”he said.
If India win the first T20I against South Africa, they will set the new world record for most wins in a row in the format. They are currently on a 12-match winning streak, starting with the win against Afghanistan in the 2021 T20 World Cup.
“I know that we are definitely heading towards that world record of having that 13-match winning streak. See, if you look at it in the last two years, except that T20 World Cup, our record has always been good in bilaterals. Though the World Cup was a big letdown for us, in the rankings we have always been No.1 and No.2. And I have a feeling that we entered the World Cup also with top rankings only. So it’s very unfortunate that we didn’t have a good World Cup. Otherwise our rankings have always been up there in the ladder. At times it may not be a mere reflection of exactly what the thing is, but from Team India’s perspective, we have always been a good side. We have beaten South Africa in South Africa, Australia in Australia, New Zealand in New Zealand, West Indies as well. So that clearly shows that we have done extremely well in T20s across the globe, ”Prasad said.
He also said that the four teams that have made it to the IPL 2022 play-offs are all well-deserving of their places.
“One thing I can tell you is that four thoroughly deserving teams have come into the semi-finals,” he said.
“If you see the way 5 or 6 unbelievable games the Gujarat Titans have won. Very, very close games. Absolutely nothing close to their side to win those games. So they deserve to be in the No.1 spot, ”he said
“Rajasthan Royals, with the sheer combinations they have set this time, whether it’s their batting or their spin department or fast bowling department, every department they have covered their bases. They did a good job in the auctions and they have consistently delivered also. In fact, many of the victories that they had were more comprehensive victories than Gujarat Titans. They have a very good team, so they deserve it.
“The third team that we have to speak about is LSG. They also did a good job in the auctions, they’ve also won some lovely games, KL has always been performing, you have Deepak Hooda doing well. You’ve unearthed some lovely talents in Mohsin Khan, Avesh Khan. So they did a good job in the auctions and they also delivered. In fact, at some stage you are even thinking that they might be standing at the top of the table. So three teams are thoroughly deserving teams, ”he said.
“Fourth team, RCB, they also are a much more balanced side. In fact, they started off well and I thought that they would definitely be at the top of the table, but in between the slump in the form of important players has not helped the cause, but overall, if you see, they deserved to be in the semi-finals compared to the other teams who came close to them. So four quality teams are there, ”Prasad opined.
“It’s very difficult to say this, you never know who is eventually going to go on and win the tournament, but all four teams are thoroughly deserving teams to get into the top four. Maybe balanced side, RR is pretty balanced. You have wonderful finishers in Gujarat Titans. On their day RCB can shock anybody and so is KL Rahul’s form and his entire team’s form. All four teams deserve it, ”he concluded.
The IPL playoffs and India’s T20I series against South Africa will be telecast on the Star Sports network and can be streamed on Disney + Hotstar.
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