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World Test Championship 2021/23

Five controversial selection decisions that counted against India in ICC events

Sarah Waris by Sarah Waris
@swaris16 5 minute read

India went into the 2021/23 World Test Championship final against Australia without R Ashwin, the top-ranked Test bowler in the world, sparking debates. This is, however, not the first time that India have made arguable calls in ICC events.

India Men have not won an ICC trophy in ten years, since the 2013 Champions Trophy. At the same time, they have reached the top four seven times and the top two four times, including the 2023 WTC final.

A number of questionable selections have not helped them. We look at some contentious selections made by India over these tournaments, and how they came off.


2016 T20 World Cup, semifinal v West Indies

Ajinkya Rahane in for Yuvraj Singh
R Ashwin plays at Wankhede

Yuvraj Singh had played four games in the edition, scoring 52 runs at a strike rate of 100 until the semi-final at the Wankhede Stadium. He was then benched for the clash against West Indies for Ajinkya Rahane, who was playing his first game in the edition.

The move did not go as planned. Rahane struggled to get going, making 40 in 35 balls at a high-scoring venue. India’s 192-2 was not enough, as the West Indies won in the last over.

Having played all the games in the event, Ashwin was retained despite the dew threat. He bowled only two overs, conceding 20, while Ravindra Jadeja, the other spinner, went for 48. Jadeja’s batting made his selection somewhat justifiable, but as the dew accumulated, India were left searching for seamers. They were forced to turn to Virat Kohli when they had to defend eight in the last over.

2019 World Cup

Ignoring Ambati Rayudu

The biggest selection call debacle in recent years is arguably snubbing an in-form Ambati Rayudu for Vijay Shankar for the 2019 World Cup. Rayudu has been averaging 42.60 in ODIs since 2018, and had been groomed for the No.4 position for the marquee event.

At this juncture, however, they preferred Vijay Shankar to Rayudu. Shankar made his debut in January 2019 and was picked for his ability to bowl – something none of India’s specialist batters did.

However, ahead of the tournament, Shankar averaged 33 with the bat and 94 with the ball.  He played three games in the World Cup before he was injured. With Shikhar Dhawan ruled out midway as well, India overlooked Rayudu again, backing Rishabh Pant and the uncapped Mayank Agarwal instead.

2021 World Test Championship final, v New Zealand

Picking R Ashwin in cloudy conditions

While his legacy is not in doubt, Ashwin does not have an outstanding record away from home. With rain washing out the first day of the six-day final, India had the opportunity to tweak their XI keeping the conditions in mind.

They backed both Ashwin and Jadeja along with three fast bowlers. Head coach Ravi Shastri later explained that India backed their best XI despite the conditions.

New Zealand, on the other hand, went in with an all-seam attack. Ashwin picked up four wickets in the game, but Jadeja went underbowled, and India would have benefitted with another seamer in overcast conditions.

India changed their strategy for the series against England in England that followed: they stuck to a four-pace attack throughout the five Test matches, picking Jadeja ahead of Ashwin on each occasion.

2021 T20 World Cup

Dropping Yuzvendra Chahal for Rahul Chahar, Varun Chakravarthy

Despite being the leading wicket-taker in IPL history, Yuzvendra Chahal is yet to make his T20 World Cup debut. He was not picked in the squad for the 2021 T20 World Cup despite ending with 18 wickets at 7.05 an over in that year’s IPL, with a part of the competition being played in the UAE, the venue for the World Cup.

With 13 wickets, Rahul Chahar got a call-up instead after two years, along with Varun Chakravarthy, who had excelled in the tournament. Chief selector Chetan Sharma explained: “We had a discussion over Yuzvendra Chahal and the selectors thought was we need a bowler, who can bowl fast, and as we have recently seen Rahul Chahar bowling, the speed that he bowls with, the selectors thought that we need such a player, who can on those wickets, can hold and more speed.”

Chahar played only once, conceding 0-30 against Namibia. With only three T20Is under his belt, Chakravarthy found himself part of a bowling unit that had to defend 152 against Pakistan and 111 against New Zealand. The opposition batters played out his overs.

2022 T20 World Cup

Where do we even begin?

India’s 2022 T20 World Cup was defined by head-scratching selection decisions calls and surprising team combinations. Captain Rohit Sharma and vice-captain KL Rahul had not turned out for India regularly in the build-up, and India ended up having the second-slowest powerplay run rate of all 16 teams.

To replace Jasprit Bumrah, India called up Mohammed Shami at the last minute, despite previous reports of the selectors having decided to move on from him for the format. Shami had not played a T20I in almost a year. Harshal Patel, who had been backed in the build-up, did not play a single game in the tournament.

Ravindra Jadeja’s injury also affected the team balance. India backed Axar Patel at No.7 and preferred Ashwin for his batting, overlooking Chahal on the large Australian grounds. Deepak Hooda, a top-order batter, came at No.5 against South Africa, as Rohit confirmed that India left out Axar against a left-hand-heavy South African attack. Axar did play in the semi-final against England, a team with three left-handers.

Their usage of Dinesh Karthik was questionable as well. Having backed him to don the finisher’s role, they dropped him after three innings.

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