One final assignment for the Indian men's cricket team before the calendar turns over " and they clearly don't want to allow any let-ups to what has been a quite dominating run across formats, even given the 'disappointment' of the ICC ODI World Cup semi-final exit. At this juncture (prior to the Pink Ball Test against Bangladesh), India have won 30 out of 44 completed internationals in 2019, with a positive record in each of the format.
They sign off on the year with a limited overs exercise against West Indies, and while speculation from the build-up suggested a prolonged winter break for at least some of the regulars ahead of the tour of New Zealand to kick-start 2020, the squad announcement quashed any such rumours. Thursday's meeting was, in almost all certainty, the last one for the incumbent selection committee, with chief selector MSK Prasad seeing his tenure end on 1 December.
Not too many of Prasad's squad announcements over these last three years came without eliciting at least a few question marks among the Indian cricket community; his final act followed suit.
Here are the key takeaways " and the final set of questions for Prasad and Co. " from India's 15-man squads for their ODI and T20I series against the visiting West Indies, both of which will be three-match contests.
Welcome back: The Kul-Cha reunion The culmination of ODI World Cup marked the elongated countdown to the T20 World Cup, with two of those lined up in the coming two years. It also seemed to suggest a closing of the door on a combination that became an instant hit for India's limited overs setups in the lead up to 2019, with Virat Kohli letting Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav know publicly that they would need more than their bowling to be part of the T20I setup.
Neither Chahal nor Kuldeep made it to India's squads for the away T20Is against the West Indies as well as the home series against South Africa, but the right-arm leggie found his way back in for the recent contest versus Bangladesh. Hot on the heels of Chahal's somewhat successful return " four wickets in three games, even as the other Indian spinners combined to take one wicket between them " his fellow wrist-spinner is back in the setup too.
Brothers in arms: The combo of Kulcha returns to the T20I side. Reuters
Kuldeep last played a T20I in February, in New Zealand, and has endured a difficult 2019 after the highs of his first couple of years in the format. The left-arm wrist spinner returned a sorry four wickets from nine games in the IPL, before an underwhelming World Cup where he could only bag six wickets in seven outings. It served to bring into question whether Kuldeep had lost his ability as a strike bowler " a USP of the soon-to-be 25-year-old " but a second chance has come soon, with the T20 World Cup now less than 11 months away.
While a 'Kul-Cha' reunion (in the playing XI) could be a possibility in the ODIs, the chances of the same happening in the 20-over games remain bleak. Neither of the two has taken any noteworthy strides with their bat for Kohli's fears from four months ago to have been banished " India's T20I lineup, almost certainly, will have room for just one of the two.
The temptation, though, comes out of the 10-match sample of the wrist-spin twins featuring together in T20Is: in these 10 games, Chahal and Kuldeep have a combined haul of 41 wickets " and they take barely 10 balls per each scalp.
Jadeja over Krunal for T20Is: Harsh?
Where Kuldeep benefited from his strike abilities, Krunal Pandya finds himself omitted from the T20I setup for a lack of the same " but only if you're looking at a very brief sample.
Sure, the senior of the Pandya brothers didn't do himself much good with a humbling outing with the ball in the recent home series against South Africa and Bangladesh: 65 wicketless deliveries, while conceding nearly nine runs per over. But guess what? Just before this, he was picking up the Man of the Series award when India played in West Indies in August.
Before that, he had done held himself in good stead in his opening season in international cricket, the highlight of which was a match-winning spell of 4/36 in India's series-decider in Australia last November.
In less than a year, Krunal's roller-coaster ride has been halted " for now " with Ravindra Jadeja taking his spot; it was quite clear, when India fielded both during the T20Is versus South Africa, that there can only really be room for one.
Jadeja hadn't featured in T20Is for two years before his call-up for series against West Indies in USA. While his bowling has almost always been tight and efficient, and his fielding right up there with the best, it is his batting prowess (even if in other formats) that probably clinched the deal for Jadeja " he has five fifties in nine Test innings this year.
Still: With Krunal having faced all of 92 balls in T20I cricket, was he given a fair-enough chance to state his credentials? Arguably not.
Shot in the arm for Dube and Deepak
The two match-winners from the T20I series decider against Bangladesh could now get a chance to stake their claims at the ODI level. Deepak Chahar and Shivam Dube shared nine wickets between them to take India out of a corner in Nagpur, and they are the two changes to the squad that featured in India's last ODI assignment in West Indies, replacing Khaleel Ahmed and the injured Navdeep Saini.
Chahar ran away with the headlines but Dube's three wickets, after being taken apart in his first over, were perhaps as decisive to the end outcome, if not more.
The maiden ODI call-up makes it two nods of approval from Kohli for Dube inside a week; the Mumbai all-rounder had earlier been retained by Royal Challengers Bangalore for IPL 2020, despite a hefty INR 5 crore price tag and a bit of a clearance at the club. But if the 26-year-old were to win a first ODI cap, it will be for his power-hitting capabilities " Dube boasts a career List-A strike rate of 121.34 (while averaging 43.85), and was the second-fastest scorer among all batsmen with 100 or more runs at this season's Vijay Hazare Trophy.
For Chahar, his phenomenal T20I ascent this year " 13 wickets from six matches, an economy of 4.77, a wicket every 9.3 balls " provides him a crack at putting himself in the ODI mix for the longer term. His only 50-over appearance, in India's tied finish versus Afghanistan at last year's Asia Cup, saw Chahar concede 37 in four overs.
Respite at the death? Bhuvi, Shami return
Chahar's sensational exploits in Nagpur were all-the-more special given he did the bulk of the damage bowling at the death, in great contrast to his time rising up the ranks under MS Dhoni's tutelage at Chennai Super Kings. But even given the young pacer's jaw-dropping figures, India would be kidding themselves if they thought they had their death bowling bases covered in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah.
The think-tank has, finally, run out of patience with Khaleel Ahmed, whose generous gifts to Mushfiqur Rahim in the penultimate over in the first T20I in Delhi played a telling role in India succumbing to their first-ever T20I defeat at the hands of Bangladesh. A T20I economy of 8.82 (and a corresponding ODI mark of 5.81), while barely returning a wicket per game, meant even Khaleel's left-arm uniqueness couldn't keep him in the team.
Instead, the seasoned pacers " and Bumrah's partners from the World Cup " make a comeback. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is through with his lengthy period of rehab at the NCA, and proved his fitness at the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, while also training with the Indian team ahead of last week's Indore Test.
Shami's is the more intriguing return, though, as the 29-year-old earns a first T20I call-up since July 2017. His seven appearances in the format have cost India 10.56 per over, but, perhaps like Jadeja, the management expects his successes from the other formats to rub off " Shami has 31 wickets from seven Tests and 37 wickets from 18 ODIs in 2019.
More Musings: Of borrowed time, and unoffered chances
What, exactly, is the rationale behind Kedar Jadhav still being part of the Indian ODI setup? And what, exactly, did Sanju Samson and Rahul Chahar do wrong to lose their berths in the T20I camp?
Let's take Jadhav first: he's clearly not part of the T20 World Cup plans (last T20I: October 2017), he'll be 38 by the time the next 50-over World Cup comes along, and he doesn't exactly have the greatest fitness slate. If India do have a spot in the ODI squad that doesn't need to cater to any of the experiments for Mission 2020 " which is exactly what Jadhav's spot is " why can't it be used to start honing someone who might actually last till 2023? Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Vijay Shankar, Baba Aparajith, Jalaj Saxena¦ surely there isn't a dearth of excitable talent waiting to be tested?
Speaking of excitable talent waiting to be tested, the heart has to go out for Samson and the younger of the Chahar cousins. Samson may have only been part of the squad against Bangladesh as a back up to Rishabh Pant, and Chahar may still be a little rough around the edges, but if that is the case, are the confidence levels of up-and-comers being helped when they see themselves shunted out before being offered a chance?
Finally, a punt from the side of this author: Shikhar Dhawan is on borrowed time in T20Is, and could well lose his spot in the XI to KL Rahul by the end of the series. India really need to get a move on, and get it quick, in the shortest format, and Dhawan's career T20 strike rate of 123.58 doesn't begin to cut it. 41 off 42, 31 off 27, 19 off 16 " these scores against Bangladesh have only added to the murmurs of discontentment. Rahul, in comparison, strikes at 137.77 in T20 cricket; in the last two seasons of the IPL, which he played entirely as opener for Kings XI Punjab, that strike rate reads 146.60.
India Squad for T20Is:
Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Shivam Dube, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Deepak Chahar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
India Squad for ODIs:
Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Deepak Chahar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami.