“The selectors and the management can call their selections in the squad as an opportunity to learn for the youngsters. But is it really worth that much if they aren’t given the opportunity to play and perform? It’s not”
When the Indian squad for the two-match home Test series against the Windies was announced, it made almost everyone happy as it included the names of a number of domestic performers who deserved a call-up.
Squad: KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane(VC), Rishabh Pant, Hanuma Vihari, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Siraj, Shardul Thakur.
Mayank Agarwal finally got his due after churning up consistent runs in all formats of domestic cricket and on India A tours in the last one year. Young Prithvi Shaw also retained his place after being called up into the Indian squad for the final two Tests in England last month.
Moreover, Mohammad Siraj has also been presented with an opportunity after he impressed everyone with consistent and fiery spells of fast bowling in first-class cricket over the last three-four months.
Apparently, it looks like a well-rounded squad which gives each of the deserving new faces an equal opportunity to show their mettle in the series.
However, if you observe closely and consider other factors like the composition of the squad and the length of the series, it would become clear that how little game-time the new faces are going to get.
This should have been a series in which most of the senior and regular players should have been rested.
While the selectors have done the right thing by resting bowlers like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, they have opted to go with the services of their regular Test batting stalwarts Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara and one of their bowling mainstays in Mohammad Shami.
The selections of Pujara and Rahane are still understandable as they feature regularly only in Tests and hence deserve to be there in the squad irrespective of who the opponents are.
However, they could have really opted to give Kohli an extended rest in this series as that would have freed up at least another spot in the batting line-up to accommodate another youngster.
If you look at the very composition of the squad, KL Rahul looks almost certain to be their first choice opener for both Tests. And it is Shaw and Agarwal who will compete for the second opening spot.
It may happen that both may get to feature in one Test each or one of them may not even get a chance to play in the series at all. If this happens with Agarwal after performing so well in domestic cricket in the last one year, his level of frustration would be unimaginable. After all, it has already happened with someone like Karun Nair.
Nair has been an overlooked name after he shot himself to fame with a triple century only in his third Test match.
He was there in the squad for the entire time during the England series as well but it was Hanuma Vihari who made it into the XI ahead of him after being picked for the last two Tests. And now, Nair has been dropped from the squad for the series against the Windies without any valid reason at all.
So, we can only hope that the same thing doesn’t happen with Agarwal as well. After all, he has been quite an overlooked name during all this time.
Irrespective of who he is and how much the management backs them, a new player should always get an extended run of matches to show what he can do. Labelling a player as not good enough after giving him a run of just one or two matches isn’t justified at all.
If we dig further, it becomes clear that Pujara will bat at No.3 followed by Kohli and Rahane at No.4 and 5 respectively. That leaves Rishabh Pant, the only wicket-keeper in the squad, to bat at either No.6 or at 7. But Vihari’s place in the XI will depend on what composition the management decides to pick in the Test matches.
If they decide to go with five front-line bowlers, Vihari isn’t going to get a chance to feature in the XI. He is going to play only if India opt to go with four-frontline bowlers. So, his place in the XI is uncertain too. Maybe he will get to play one Test match but is it enough game-time for a player in a two-match series? Certainly not!
The pace department looks a bit overloaded too. Along with Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami, Mohammad Siraj and Shardul Thakur are the other two names featuring in the squad.
Yadav and Shami look like the first-names to feature in the team-sheet for the first Test at least. It is highly unlikely that they would go with three pacers in their team.
So, Siraj and Thakur’s chances of playing in both matches are completely ruled out as Umesh will be given a run in both Tests in all probability. Just like Shaw and Agarwal, one among Siraj and Shardul may not even get a single match to play. So, that sums up the kind of opportunity they have been given in the series.
During the upcoming Australia tour, they will be back to their roles of being the fringe players once the other regular names return. So, it was the right time to test out all these youngsters and these two Test matches presented the selectors with the perfect opportunity to do so.
If they would have opted to rest two more players in Kohli and Shami, they could have been able to do more justice to these youngsters who have performed so well in domestic cricket.
The selectors and the management can call their selections in the squad as an opportunity to learn for the youngsters. But is it really worth that much if they aren’t given the opportunity to play and perform? It’s not.
Sadly, it is yet another opportunity lost to test the bench strength properly.