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Ajit Agarkar one-man army behind Dhruv Jurel and Devdutt Padikkal’s selections; will have last word in T20 WC squad

Ajit Agarkar is likely have the last say in picking India’s final 15 for T20 World Cup. A lot will depend on the IPL but not everything.

When Sunil Gavaskar lavished praise on Rahul Dravid and his support staff for doing the “backroom work” with the Indian side after their triumph against England, the head coach promptly mentioned the work of the Ajit Agarkar-led selection committee.

India’s coach Rahul Dravid and BCCI chief selector Ajit Agarkar(ANI )

“A big shoutout to Ajit and his team as well. A lot of the youngsters that come in… as coach and as captain we don’t actually get to see a lot of them. We don’t see as much domestic cricket as Ajit and his team of selectors do. They have pushed us. They have challenged us to pick some of these youngsters and they have come out here and performed. It’s not easy being a selector. You always get the criticism but a big pat on the back to Ajit and his team,” Dravid said in an interview with Jio Cinema following India’s 4-1 series win over the Bazballers.

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This was among the 1001 reasons to like Dravid as a team man, more so as a human being. But to equate this entirely to Dravid’s humility would be a tad unfair to the selectors, especially its chief, Agarkar.

Agarkar’s role in Jurel and Padikkal’s selections

The youngsters Dravid was talking about were Dhruv Jurel and Devdutt Padikkal. It was Agarkar who pushed for the selection of these two cricketers during the England series. After Ishan Kishan pulled out of the South Africa Test series citing mental fatigue, the management was in a fix about the backup keeper. It was already decided that KL Rahul will play as a specialist batter. That left India with only one keeping option – KS Bharat.

“It was Agarkar who suggested Jurel’s name. The team management wasn’t too confident about him as he was still a rookie. Picking a youngster who hasn’t had much red-ball exposure at the top level straightaway into the Indian side for an important series like England was always going to be a brave call but Agarkar had seen enough to vouch for the youngster,” a BCCI source told Hindustan Times.

After Bharat failed with the bat in the first two Tests, Jurel was handed his Test cap in Rajkot. The Agra boy did not disappoint. With a solid 45 on debut, he proved Agarkar’s instincts correct. But what he pulled off in the next Test in Ranchi would not only help India secure a series win but also cement his place in the Indian squad as a keeper even when Rishabh Pant returns. Jurel top-scored in the first innings with a 91 and then stayed ice-cool under immense pressure in the second innings with an unbeaten 36 to take India home.

There was another inspired selection of Devdutt Padikkal where Agarkar took the lead. When it was more or less confirmed that both Virat Kohli and KL Rahul would not be able to take part in the remaining two Tests of the series for different reasons, India needed a solid batter in the middle order. Test caps were already handed over to Rajat Patidar and Sarfaraz Khan. After captain Rohit Sharma, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja was India’s most experienced batter in the top six.

“There was a discussion about Cheteshwar Pujara, who was scoring runs in Ranji Trophy. The batting line-up literally had no experience. But Agarkar stood firm on looking ahead with Padikkal’s selection. He was present when he hit a fluent 150 in a Ranji Trophy and he believed that his height would come in handy against the inexperienced England spinners,” the source added.

In his only chance to bat at the Test level in the final Test in Dharamsala, Padikkal scored a crucial 65 in the first innings. Agarkar was also instrumental in the selections of Sai Sudharsan and Rajat Patidar during the South Africa tour.

Agarkar to have final say in T20 World Cup selection, IPL performance not sole parameter

The former India fast bowler has been calling the shots ever since taking over as the chairman of sectors in July last year amid turbulent times. His predecessor, Chetan Sharma, had to step down following a sting operation by a national news channel. The pedigree of the selection committee was in question.

The Board wanted a change. In came Agarkar, the face of the new selection committee with a proven track record as the Mumbai Cricket Association chief selector. He was a man with a voice backed with a sound acumen to spot talent.

He doesn’t shy away from the hard task. Whether it was recommending scrapping Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer’s names from the central list for not playing the Ranji Trophy or preparing backups for every position, Agarkar has been at the forefront of shaping up the backbone of India’s squad as much as coach Dravid and captain Rohit.

With India still hunting for their first ICC trophy since 2013, the T20 World Cup in June is the nearest opportunity and those in the know of things believe it is Agarkar who will have the last say in picking the final 15. A lot will depend on the IPL but the dynamics of franchise cricket and international cricket are different.

“IPL will be important but it won’t be the main criteria for selection for T20 World Cup. The selectors have more or less chalked out a squad. The IPL won’t change too much unless there is a breakthrough performance or a drastic dip in form,” the source added.


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