The selectors have finally run out of their patience with Ishant Sharma (left) and Suresh Raina © AFP
By Abhijit Banare
There are two ways to look at the Asia Cup 2014 squad to tour Bangladesh this month. One one hand, the selectors have finally run out of patience with Ishant Sharma and Suresh Raina, and on the other, the selectors have felt the urgent need to bring stability to the batting order by including Cheteshwar Pujara. Both the decisions have been spot in many ways and the selectors have once again given an indication that there will be enough chances to prove your worth and any player who deserves will surely get a look in.
Asia Cup squad: MS Dhoni (c & wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ambati Rayudu, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron, Stuart Binny, Amit Mishra, Ishwar Pandey
Who’s the new No 4? — Cheteshwar Pujara
It’s just impossible to ignore this statement from MS Dhoni given in October during the seven-match One-Day International (ODI) series against Australia.
“We want Suresh to bat at number four for a considerable period of time. The only reason being, we realised who is the number four batsman. Is it only Yuvraj Singh? If we go into the World Cup with him in good form and without anything happening, then it will be Yuvraj who bats at number four. However, if we don’t, then all of a sudden, before the start of the World Cup we realise we don’t have a number four batsman and we need some kind of allowance. I think we need Suresh to get some kind of experience”
Just four months later, Raina is not just dropped but Dhoni is all set to use his fourth choice at the position. Ajinkya Rahane came in at the position and didn’t make a strong impression. After the 0-4 loss to New Zealand, there were loud calls of Pujara to be included in the team. And having played just two ODIs, Pujara is finally in the Indian set-up. While Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan continue to enjoy the selectors and MS Dhoni’s faith, Virat Kohli as the No 3, Pujara looks set to complete the solid middle-order (Ironically Kohli and Pujara swap their places in Tests). With Raina excluded, Rahane could well get the No 5 spot just ahead of Dhoni. Both Pujara and Rahane aren’t attacking players but ones who keep the innings steady. Perhaps the selectors see value in them navigating the middle overs. At the same time, Stuart Binny can also find a place instead of Rahane if Dhoni looks forward to add some aggression towards to the batting and included another bowling option. And this doesn’t look like a far-fetched idea as sub-continent pitches would mean India could be chasing high scores.
Ishant Sharma runs out of luck, time for Mohammed Shami to take over
His confidence and form had given up hope and finally the luck too seems to have gone. After yet another dismal performance in the ODI series in New Zealand, it’s finally time for the Indian bowling to reshape itself with Mohammed Shami as the lead. Shami may have leaked runs but his accuracy and ability to pick wickets makes him invaluable. At the same time, Bhuvneshwar Kumar too will be regular with the new ball in the Asia Cup. As far as the third pacer is concerned, India will finally have to look towards Ishwar Pandey or Varun Aaron. At the same time, the selectors need to be well aware that being hammered on flat decks in Bangladesh shouldn’t be considered as inability to deserve a place in the pace attack.
Going by the present trend, Dhoni might still be regaining faith in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the limited overs format. And in sub-continent, they play a critical role in containing more than picking wickets. Which implies that Amit Mishra will cool the heels for the nth time.
Overall, the squad seems good enough for Asia Cup, but it all depends on how well the batting unit fires. Pujara’s inclusion means the strategy in the middle overs could change and Raina’s habit of going for the strokes will no more exist. Interesting times lay ahead, especially to watch Pujara in coloured jersey for India.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)