The 3D sequels aren't over yet. Among the clarifications India's chief selector MSK Prasad made on Sunday were a couple related to World Cup selections. Prasad stressed the decision to leave out Ambati Rayudu did not have any bias. He also explained why Rishabh Pant and Mayank Agarwal had been picked as replacements for the injured Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay Shankar respectively, and admitted the choices may have seemed "confusing" to people.
The Rayudu riddle
The World Cup final hangover may be wearing off but Indian cricket's obsession with a discarded No. 4 is not. When India's World Cup squad was announced in April, Rayudu had been left out in favour of Vijay Shankar, with Prasad saying the latter brought "three dimensions" to the side. A day after the announcement, Rayudu in a not-so-cryptic tweet said: "Just ordered a new set of 3d glasses to watch the World Cup." It was followed by a winking and a smiling emoji. On Sunday, while announcing India's squads for the West Indies tour, Prasad said he had "really enjoyed" that tweet. "Frankly speaking, it was a lovely tweet, I really enjoyed it. Seriously. It was a very timely one, very sarcastic. it was fantastic one. I don't know how it struck him."
He also addressed the "emotional" side of Rayudu's decision to retire from all forms of cricket earlier this month. Although he had been marked as India's No. 4 by Virat Kohli last year, the selectors didn't pick him to go to England even after Vijay Shankar was injured and the team needed replacements. Prasad insisted there was no bias in that decision, and added that his committee had backed Rayudu previously.
"First of all, how much emotions have gone through anybody, the same emotions also have gone through the selection committee," Prasad said on Sunday. "When we pick any player and he does well, we feel so happy for him. Similarly, when someone, out of emotions, goes out in this way, selection committee members also feel for it.
"But, having said that, with regard to the decision that was taken, it was devoid of any bias or any favouritism. From the beginning, I have been telling why we have picked Vijay Shankar, why we have picked Rishabh Pant or Mayank Agarwal. Somewhere, it is definitely related to Rayudu's case also. There's no second thought, there's nothing against that.
"I will give you a small example on Rayudu. When Rayudu was picked on the basis of the 2017-18 T20 performance, we picked him in the one-day side, there was a lot of criticism but we had some thoughts about him. Subsequently, when he failed a fitness test, this selection committee backed him and we put him through a fitness programme for a month, and we ensured that he comes back fit and comes into the side. Once he came into the side we backed him, but due to certain permutations and combinations of the side, we couldn't pick him. That doesn't make this selection committee or me, in person, biased.
"I hope you will understand that there was a certain programme that was set to see that Rayudu should come into the side. There's nothing that we did against any particular person. So how much Rayudu is emotional, we are also emotional. We as ex-cricketers also feel for him. That's it, that's what I can say."
Picking Pant for Dhawan, Agarwal for Vijay Shankar
When an inexperienced middle-order batsman replaced an injured opener, and then an uncapped opener took an injured allrounder's place in India's World Cup squad, it "baffled" several fans and experts, including Sunil Gavaskar. After the side's semi-final loss to New Zealand, Gavaskar said a batsman like Rayudu should have been in the squad, since he was among the standbys, and could have handled the crisis of being 24 for 4 in a semi-final better.
"It is not the selection committee's decision. It is the team management which has been asking these things," Gavaskar had said. "We are not saying you are wrong but at the moment what we are seeing didn't work out, so we need to know."
Prasad addressed these issues on Sunday, clarifying that Pant and Agarwal had been picked on requests made by the team management.
"When Shikhar Dhawan got injured, we had a third opener in KL Rahul. At that juncture, after those two-three matches, we didn't have a left-hander at the top," Prasad explained. "Since KL Rahul was going to open, the team management requested for a left-hander and we had no choice other than Pant. We were very clear about that. We know what he is capable of. That's the reason why we had to bring in a left-hander, which actually confused many people thinking why a middle-order batsman has been picked for an opener.
"When Vijay Shankar was injured, again a middle-order player was injured, and an opener was brought in. In a game against England, when KL Rahul was trying for a catch, he had a big fall on the boundary line and he didn't field for the rest of the innings. There was a medical emergency at that stage whether he will be continuing or not. There was so much of a worry factor. At that juncture, a written communication was given to us that we need a back-up opener.
"We looked at some of the openers. Some were not in form, the others were injured. That is why we went for Mayank Agarwal. So that is very clear, no confusion on this. I'm sure by the end of the day all these speculations will be clear."