“There should be clarity,” Gambhir, the former India batter, told ESPNcricinfo during an interaction facilitated by Star Sports on Thursday. “There should be good communication between the selectors and these players. If the selectors have decided to look beyond these guys, so be it. I think a lot of countries have done that.
“We make too much of a hue and cry when the selectors and management look beyond certain individuals. Ultimately, it’s not about the individuals, but how you want to go about your plans for the next [T20] World Cup [in 2024], because you want to go in there and win it. If these guys haven’t been able to achieve that, I think you never know. People like Suryakumar, the younger generation can go on to achieve that dream.”
Gambhir stressed the need to have clear plans in place for the 2024 T20 World Cup, and right now, he is finding it hard to see Rohit, Kohli and Rahul fitting into those plans.
“Probably the new generation of cricketers might be able to achieve that template and play the T20 cricket everyone wants India to play. So I feel, if these guys continue to do well in the opportunities they get, it will be difficult for the rest of the the guys who have been rested or probably been dropped.”
There are also some questions around Rishabh Pant, who hasn’t been picked for both the T20Is and ODIs against Sri Lanka. No reason has been specified for his absence, although it is believed he needs some time at the National Cricket Academy to prepare for the four-Test series against Australia.
For much of India’s build-up to the last T20 World Cup, the team management had preferred Dinesh Karthik as first-choice wicketkeeper. Pant played only two games in the tournament, including the semi-final, scoring 3 and 6.
“First of all, the selectors need to be very clear if he’s been rested or dropped,” Gambhir said. “According to me, he [must have been] dropped from white-ball cricket. There has never been enough clarity. This word called ‘rest’ is great to have; it wasn’t there when we were playing. Either we were dropped or selected.
“Rishabh had got his opportunities in white-ball cricket and hasn’t been able to grab it, and someone else like Ishan Kishan has been able to grab it. So probably now he should just focus on red-ball cricket, and if his turn comes, whenever he gets that opportunity, try and grab it.
“I don’t see that happening in the near future, if Ishan continues to play the way he’s playing. Because we keep talking about that template, but people like Prithvi Shaw, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav – that template comes to them naturally.
“Everyone wants to see Indian cricket more courageous and fearless. These guys can play in a natural way. Rishabh has got that opportunity, so he can’t blame or complain. He’s got the opportunity to open, bat at 3-4-5-6, the management has given him every opportunity to succeed in white-ball cricket, but he hasn’t been able to. I think he can concentrate on red-ball cricket, which is not bad for Rishabh because at least his entire focus is on his keeping and how he can bat at No. 5 or 6 in Test cricket.”
The Sri Lanka T20Is may also give Samson a chance to establish himself in the Indian team. Since his debut in 2015, he’s had no more than three games back-to-back, and in 16 T20Is, he’s managed just one half-century, a 42-ball 77 against Ireland in Malahide in June 2022. This is in sharp contrast to the way he plays in the IPL, where he is the sixth-highest run-getter over the last three years.
“He’s got great skill,” Sangakkara said. “The nature of selection in international cricket is that you have to be ready to play out of position. You have to be flexible and Sanju has been. What Sanju has to do is control what he does in the middle when he gets a chance. I’ve had lots of conversations with him. He takes a lot of pride in preparation and to play for India. I just hope they can give him a nice, extended run so that he can settle in and not have the nagging suspicion that he may be dropped for the next match or the next series. That’s a tough place to be in for him or for anyone.”
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo