In the late summer of 2016, MSK Prasad, a veteran of six Tests and 17 ODIs, was named as the chief selector of the newly-announced five-member committee comprising Gagan Khoda, Devang Gandhi, Jatin Paranjpe and Sarandeep Singh, although, his selection into the committee was confirmed a year before. Over the course of the next three and a half years, Indian cricket team witnessed few massive changes, bagged a historic win and embraced a historic streak, but saw more lows than highs. And as Prasad's tenure as the chief selector comes to an end, with BCCI inviting applicants for his replacement in the selection committee, we take a look at some of the highs and lows of Indian cricket since 2016.
Historic home domination in Tests
Since his appointment as the chief selector, India won 19 of the total 24 Tests they played at home while losing only once, and won nine Test series. This run was part of India's historic streak of 12 straight bilateral series win at home with 19 victories in 25 matches. In fact, India’s domineering run also includes a record-breaking run of 19 consecutive Test victories, albeit the run started under MS Dhoni’s captaincy.
In ODIs, India won 21 out of 34 matches at home while losing 12. Their only series defeat came against Australia (3-2) in 2019 amid six other bilateral series win. And in T20Is, India won seven bilateral series, drew twice and lost only once - against Australia in 2019 (2-1). Overall, India won 19 out of 27 matches at home while losing eight
Unearthing a fast-bowling combination:
The period also witnessed the passing of responsibility from the spinners to the pacers in terms of leading the bowling attack. While the entire period of the home domination saw Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja dictating the wicket-taking charts in Test cricket, from 2018 onwards, it was the pacers. In fact, the combination of Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav capped off the best-ever calendar year for any pace combination, leaving behind the greats of West Indies' 80s attack. Moreover, even in limited-overs cricket, India has witnessed a large pool of pace bowling possibilities, which has managed to leave a happy headache among the selectors and the team management.
The smooth transition from under Dhoni to Kohli:
Just like in Test cricket, India were moulded smoothly from a team under the calm-headed Dhoni to an aggressive leader in Kohli. Having taken over the responsibility at the start of 2017, Kohli led India to 12 bilateral series win. His first series defeat came in England in 2018 (2-1) and the second defeat was at home against Australia in 2019 (3-2).
Giving India new possibilities
Post India's defeat in the Champions Trophy in 2017, the selectors sought to move away from their premier spinners Ashwin and Jadeja, and place focus on the leg-spinners. The pair of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal did not just trouble batters at home, they extracted success even on overseas track with their best record coming in South Africa ODI series in 2018. The duo slowly emerged as the leading spinners in ODIs and T20Is with the chinaman even finding success in Test cricket as well.
"I think it was tough to bring in Kuldeep and Chahal when we already had established spinners in the side. They grabbed the opportunity and delivered consistently," MSK had said in an interview with Sportstar.
It was under MSK's reign that India witnessed the emergence of Jasprit Bumrah into a world-class bowler, and the rise of Hardik Pandya as an all-format player.
Australia - India's only overseas success in three years
India played 17 Tests away from home since September 2016 and won only nine games while losing seven with their only notable series win coming in Australia in 2018/19 tour. India defeated the Aussies 2-1 in the four-game Border-Gavaskar series to become the first Asian team to win a bilateral Test series Down Under. Besides the success, India also won in Sri Lanka - a 3-0 historic whitewash in 2017. However, the lost in South Africa (1-2) and were humiliated 1-4 in England, both in 2018.
In ODIs, India won six out of seven bilateral series on overseas soil - twice against West Indies and once against Sri Lanka. But their notable wins came against South Africa (5-1) in a six-game series, Australia (2-1) and New Zealand (4-1). Their only defeat was in England (1-2). Overall, they managed 22 wins of 30 matches away from home while losing six games.
No ICC trophies
India were part of two ICC tournaments during his tenure - Champions Trophy in 2017 and World Cup in 2019. In both the tournaments, India were the hot favourites, but failed to bag the trophy. They finished as runners up in Champions Trophy, losing to Pakistan by 180 runs in the final. And in World Cup 2019, India finished top of the table in the group stage, but lost to New Zealand in the semis. India hence remain winless in ICC tournaments since 2019 Champions Trophy win.
Constant chopping and changing
One very disturbing trend in his tenure was the lack of predictability in his selection pattern. There were haphazard chopping and changing of the squad, across formats, amid a few allegations that players were not informed of the reason behind their exclusions.
The first in his tenure was Karun Nair, the man who notched up 303 runs against England at home, before he lost his spot in the Indian Test team and did not get a recall despite decent knocks in domestic cricket. Another shocking selection decision was the axing of Murali Vijay from the Test squad. In fact, both had gone on record stating that there was "no communication" from the selectors and the team management regarding the decision, an allegation emphatically denied by chairman of selectors Prasad and Rai.
Limited-overs cricket too witnessed the same in the buildup to India's World Cup 2019 preparations. Ambati Rayudu was constantly backed as India's No.4 batsman for the tournament. And after a stretch of only 14 innings, Rayudu incurred a failure, against Australia at home, and he wa eventually dropped from the ODI team. And Vijay Shankar, who had only made his debut a few months back in January 2019, found his name of the World Cup list. Even during the tournament, there were a few disturbing replacement calls for injured players which called for criticism from veterans and analysts.
Moreover, there was no backing of players. In the buildup to 2011 World Cup, the middle order batters got almost as many innings as the ten top-order batters. But in the buildup to 2019 World Cup, compared to the number of chances the top-three managed, the middle-order batsman to get most chances to bat in ODIs was Rayudu - 14.
Of late, Sanju Samson was the latest victim. Amid faltering form of Rishabh Pant, Samson was called for the Bangladesh T20I series and was dropped a series later without getting a game. He was recalled for the Sri Lanka series, got only one opportunity and was dropped from the crucial T20I series against New Zealand.