“The bowling attack looks settled, but it is the batting department that will have to silence the questions that are doing the rounds”
An Indian Cricket fan might have gotten himself accustomed to the now-common hullabaloo that follows a non-performance in an away Test series. He will be familiar with the hoarse cries for the player’s head as well, spending days on hours dissecting why the chosen cricketer should be replaced by an upcoming talented youngster. However, the usual norm that unfolds in Indian cricket is to easily let bygone be bygones, with the selectors overlooking the ignominies of the past and selecting the very same non-performers for the next overseas series.
A similar incident occurs to have panned out in the selection for the team to Australia as well. With Murali Vijay recalled despite him not breaking the record books since his omission and the likes of Mayank Agarwal being dropped despite not getting a chance against West Indies, a number of unanswered questions are swiveling the air.
Here is the full squad of 18 for the four Tests in Australia.
Virat Kohli (C), M Vijay, KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Parthiv Patel, R Ashwin, R Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Shami, Ishant, Umesh, Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
In – Murali Vijay
The most technical player in the Indian Test squad, or so it was assumed, was dropped from the last three Test matches in England after a series of horrendous scores, including a pair at Lord’s. Subsequently, Vijay plied his trade in County Cricket, playing for Essex. He did have a couple of scores in the 80s and managed a 50 along with a hundred against Nottingham but thereafter he has looked out of sorts while playing the Deodhar Trophy in India.
With scores of 3, 44 and 24 for Tamil Nadu, the opener has not exactly set the domestic scene on fire but it can be argued that these matches are List A games, while he did fairly well in FC games for Essex.
Chief selector MSK Prasad did not ignore his efforts, even as speculation was rife that Vijay would miss out from the tour. “Vijay went back and performed and considering the intensity of the series we have brought him,” Prasad said.
With renewed energy after some time away from the national camp, Vijay would be eager to play his role to perfection in Australia, if he is given a place in the starting 11. By the looks of it, young Prithvi Shaw looks all set to play his debut game in Australia, with fourth innings hero from The Oval, KL Rahul, set to take the second opener’s slot.
Out – Mayank Agarwal
The unhealthy trait of picking a talented player to keep him on the bench and then drop him without offering him a chance continued with Mayank Agarwal, who was picked for the Windies series, not getting a look-in for the Australia tour.
Agarwal will consider himself hard done, as he has not only performed superbly in the India A games in England, he also has a string of fifties to his name in his last ten innings. Playing for India B, India A and Karnataka in his last ten innings for various tournaments, Agarwal has three fifties and a knock of 124 to his name. Along with that, he registered 90 in the practice game versus West Indies. Stats that anyone will find difficult to overlook!
With an FC average of 50.32, it is difficult to fathom the treatment that has been meted out to Agarwal, which is in close heels to the behaviour towards Karun Nair as well.
Nair, it must be remembered, was hardly given opportunities after his triple ton. He was selected to tour England this season but was not given a single chance, and instead, it was Hanuma Vihari who made his debut. Nair was eventually dropped from the series against Windies.
Firstly, the Windies series presented a perfect opportunity for youngsters to gain some invaluable experience and they should have been pushed for a spot in the series. Ideally, skipper Virat Kohli should have taken a break from the Test games to give as many youngsters a chance and instead should have been in the squad for the T20Is, considering Windies’ firepower in the format. The Tests against the Jason Holder-led team could have been the perfect chance for the Agarwals and Viharis to gain some exposure, however, the duo were not given any matches as a listless West Indies collapsed to the fire-power of India’s might.
In – Rohit Sharma
White-ball performances and red-ball selections have hardly escaped Rohit Sharma in his career. The aggressive ODI opener, who has been a revelation since he started facing the new ball, has impressed with his mature approach and captaincy skills in the last few years. He raises his hand when Kohli demands a break and has led India to two trophies this year itself.
However, since when does a good show in ODIs guarantee a strong performance in Tests? Rohit was picked for the South African series this year after a string of good knocks, including a double century against Sri Lanka. Captain Kohli, then, had relied on the importance of form over experience in the Rainbow Nation, choosing to pick Rohit ahead of Ajinkya Rahane. The move, however, had spelt doom.
Even before the squad had been announced, former kipper Sourav Ganguly had been keen to have Rohit in the series against Australia, without realizing that he has not proved himself in the whites. In 25 Tests, Rohit averages 39.97 – numbers that are underwhelming, especially when one sees the competition around.
If he was so good, why wasn’t he picked for the England tour? Rohit has not played any Tests since then and now with no FC games under his belt too, so what has forced the selectors to go towards him? If it is his success as a back-foot player, as Prasad pointed out, it seems highly unfair that the cricketer is picked only due to one technical aspect without numbers to his credit. Maybe it is high time that the Indian management sees Rohit as a one-day specialist, someone along the lines of Yuvraj Singh, who too failed to get going in Tests.
In – Kuldeep Yadav
A lesser selection news, however. With Indian likely to field Ravindra Jadeja as their main spinner, the option will remain open between Ravi Ashwin and Kuldeep for the second spinner’s slot IF conditions are on the slower side. Kuldeep was dropped from the squad for the last two Tests against England due to his dismal showings, but not every day is a Sunday and the chinaman has shown his calibre in international stage and he would be eager to replicate the same.
Yet again, the bowling attack looks settled, but it is the batting department that will have to silence the questions that are doing the rounds.