Shastri: Keep Kohli, Rohit for Tests and ODIs; ‘current form’ all that matters for T20I squad

India

“First T20 series that comes up, play these guys [the youngsters], expose these guys. They [the selectors] should start blooding them right now,” Shastri said on ESPNcricinfo’s Runorder show, when asked about how soon players like Yashasvi Jaiswal, Jitesh Sharma and Tilak Varma should get a promotion.

“Players like Rohit, Virat Kohli, they are proven, you know what they are all about. I would go in that [good performers in the IPL] direction so that they get the opportunities, they get the exposure, whilst you keep the Virats and the Rohits fresh for one-day cricket and Test cricket.

“Your focus there with that kind of experience should move to Test cricket, red-ball cricket for the future World Test Championship, and they stay fresh [so that] there is not too much of cricket where there is an overkill.”

But what if Rohit and Kohli, KL Rahul too, want to play T20 cricket?

With the 2024 T20 World Cup still more than a year away, the criteria for selection should solely be “current form”, Shastri argued.

“One year is a long time. Players can be in form, the form can disappear,” he said. “You will pick the best guys at the time, and then, of course, the experience will count, fitness will count. Who is hot at the moment, who is consistent, who has got the runs and where he has got the runs.”

Shastri was also of the opinion that there should be a specialist for each position in the batting line-up and players shouldn’t be force-fitted in unfamiliar roles, and there should be a good mix of left-hand-right-hand batters in the mix.

“It should be the right man for the right job,” Shastri said. “It shouldn’t be a guy who bats at three or four for his franchise, and suddenly you make him bat at six or open the innings when it comes to picking a team for India.

“I would like the mix of left-hand-right-hand batting combination. Just like you look for a left-armer with the ball, I would like to see left-handers there. You see this IPL, teams that have done well, look at the mix that they have.”

“I want a day when the selection meeting is live. It is my dream to see it. Can you imagine the box office, when the selection is happening where a selector is accountable?”

Ravi Shastri wants the India selection meetings to be live-streamed

“Oh, you will get that right with Hardik. He’ll get that right where he will want his six bowlers including himself and players for the right numbers,” Shastri said. “Just seeing the way he has captained Gujarat Titans, you can see there is a player for a number and there is a role which he will take forward to the Indian team.”

With an impressive IPL 2023 so far (265 runs in 12 innings at a strike rate of 158.68), Jitesh has thrown his hat in the ring as a wicketkeeper-batter who can finish the innings strongly. But India already have Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson, who have been in and around the T20I side, and are possibly ahead of Jitesh in the pecking order. Not to forget Rishabh Pant, but he is expected to be out of action at least till the end of the year. The difference, though, is that Jitesh is a finisher.

“If there are other good openers, you might want a wicketkeeper who bats at six or seven. Yet, if your opening is a bit weak, you might want to look for a keeper who might open the batting,” Shastri said. “That number becomes very important and what are your reserves, what are your strengths… Therein you fit in the bloke. It applies everywhere in that team.”

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