Published on July 18th, 2018 | by Sandipan Banerjee0
Indian think-tank’s selection conundrum worrisome
“Going by his argument, like Thaukur and Karthik, Shreyas Iyer and Axar Patel also deserved ‘some exposure’. Both were a part of the ODI squad but did not get a game”
Virat Kohli’s team selection never seizes to amaze the cricket fraternity. In one of my previous pieces on this same platform, I discussed the side-effects of the horses for courses strategy of the Indian team management. Well, a week later, the result is there for everyone to judge.
After nine consecutive bilateral ODI series triumphs, Kohli’s team went to England in order to find the right balance for next year’s World Cup, but following the 1-2 series defeat, they have checked in at the departure lounge of the Heathrow airport with a bagful of worries.
Over-dependency on the top-order, an unsettled and misfiring middle-order, MS Dhoni’s pathetic strike-rate, lack of a backup bowling option and an unmasked spin attack — the hollowness of this Indian One-Day International (ODI) side has been exposed completely. And because of his brainlessness in the team selection, Kohli has to take the bulk of the blame for this debacle.
There were three changes in the Indian playing XI ahead of the series-decider at Leeds. And one amongst those three was completely justified — a fit-again Bhuvneshwar Kumar was brought back in the eleven to provide more reliability with the new ball and in the death overs.
However, I have found no justifications to define the other two ‘tactical changes’, as Kohli said during the toss.
Shardul Thakur’s inclusion in place of Siddarth Kaul didn’t make much sense as Kaul hadn’t done badly in the previous outings on the tour. And the big one, following just one failure, KL Rahul, who was being rated as the next big thing in Indian cricket during the T20Is, made way for Dinesh Karthik at No. 4.
Yes, the with the form he is carrying, Karthik deserved a place in the eleven, much earlier on this tour. But at Leeds, India should have persisted with Rahul and they could have accommodated Karthik in place of Suresh Raina, who had done nothing extraordinary to retain his place. But for some strange reason, India wanted a left-handed batsman at No. 5.
“The plan was to have a left-hander batting in the middle-order. That is the reason why Suresh was picked ahead of Dinesh,” India assistant coach Sanjay Bangar told the media ahead of the third ODI.
Hence, Raina’s place was secure and it was poor Rahul, who had to sit out.
Such a pity!
The BBC Test Match Special (TMS) commentary had an interesting revelation on this issue.
“We asked Rahul this morning, why he wasn’t playing,” said Charles Dagnall on air during the game.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
A similar question was asked to Shardul Thakur, whose last international outing was in South Africa, a dead-rubber sixth ODI in Centurion.
“I don’t know [The reason of picking him]. The team management hasn’t explained yet,” said the Mumbai pacer.
“In South Africa also, I played only one game which was the last one. India had won the series so it was inconsequential again. This was a series finale, so I was a bit nervous, as I wanted to do well for the team. But it is not easy playing one-off game in every series,” Thakur further added.
Indeed, for any young cricketer, getting these odd one-off games to play during an entire tour, is not an easy task by any means. One just cannot get mentally ready for the big stage, if he is only being used as a filler. Their confidence level goes for a toss. And furthermore, youngsters like Thakur are being judged by the selectors by his performances in these one-off outings.
So, basically, it’s like a lottery.
Unfortunately, the captain thinks otherwise.
“I think they were necessary changes,” said Kohli in the post-match presentation. “We thought Dinesh did well, but he couldn’t convert his start, so I don’t regret the batting order changes. Shardul was meant to get some exposure, and Bhuvi needed to make a comeback. When the changes don’t come off, they look unnecessary so it must be taken in our stride.”
Going by his argument, like Thaukur and Karthik, Shreyas Iyer and Axar Patel also deserved ‘some exposure’. Both were a part of the ODI squad but did not get a game. With the unsettled middle-order, it was a perfect platform to try out someone like Iyer, if the think-tank considers him as a World Cup probable.
But again, it seems the current selection policy is not fair to everyone.
In contrary, Eoin Morgan backed his ‘best XI’ to do the job despite the huge loss in Nottingham and his boys delivered. Someone like Mark Wood, who leaked 55 runs in his six overs in the first game, retained his place in the next two and took 1 for 31 and 1 for 30 respectively in the next two outings. That’s what confidence of the team management does to a young player.
It’s high time that India should take a leaf out of England’s book. Kohli’s team’s next ODI assignment will be in the Asia Cup in September and the think-tank should start providing a consistent run to a core group of players. This current musical chair surrounding the team selection has to stop otherwise identifying a reliable squad for the World Cup will be problematic for the team management.