By Aayush Puthran
It is a strange situation that Indian cricket finds itself in. It is simultaneously facing the problem of plenty and poor performances by its top players at the international level. While consistent performers are cooling their heels on the sidelines, players who are expected to hold the mantle of responsibility aren’t doing justice. The BCCI clearly needs to rework its strategy and take a lesson or two from teams like South Africa and Australia to show improvement in India’s results that have been a sour treat for its fans over the last one-and-a-half years. One of the major actions the selectors have to take is to ensure that India has three different teams playing in the various formats of the game.
While South Africa is having a merry time with all its players performing at their peak, Australia are going through a major transition phase, probably greater than India. Yet, somehow, the team from Down Under have put up respectable performances over the last few months to prove that proper planning and bold actions are needed at such times.
South Africa lined-up a T20 team comprising of players such as Aaron Phangiso, Rory Kleinveldt, Henry Davids, Quinton de Kock, David Miller and others — a straight pick from its domestic T20 league — to successfully defeat New Zealand. This was done despite brilliant performances by its players in Tests and T20s. It is a set-up that holds long-term benefits and no other team can make use of its advantage as much as India can, given the pool of talent that is getting wasted.
Players like Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni are far too valuable for India in the limited-overs format. Given the number of international matches being played, it would be a wise decision to reserve them only for the shorter formats.
While on the other hand, players like Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan have slowly started becoming a liability on the field, which is a cause of concern in T20 cricket. Young talents such as Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay deserve a longer run in international cricket, and T20 would be an ideal platform for them to start with. Unmukt Chand should also be tested in the deep waters of international cricket sooner than later.
Performances by wicket-keepers such as Dinesh Karthik, Parthiv Patel, Wriddhiman Saha and CM Gautam are virtually being ignored given Dhoni’s place in the team. The Indian skipper’s Test records, especially when compared to his ODI stats, haven’t inspired confidence and it is high time that the selectors try out the other available options. This not only gives an opportunity to others deserving of a place, but also allows Dhoni to be fit and fresh for limited-overs cricket.
Fitness of the pacers has been a major cause of worry for a long time now. Bowlers like Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Sreesanth can be real assets when fit and firing. Reserving them for Tests will help India bolster its position in the longer version of the game.
Following Australia and South Africa’s plans, India too can award performers in the IPL with an Indian cap for T20 matches rather than justifying their selection in the Test team on the basis of their performance in the big-money league. At the same time, such a policy would allow selectors to take note of performances in Ranji Trophy and other domestic championships to select players for the Test team. Presently, Cheteshwar Pujara has been duly rewarded for his efforts, yet Subramanium Badrinath’s absence is a curious case.
Not only would it fix problems for Tests and T20s, but also allow the selectors to build a team for the 2015 World Cup. They won’t have to be overly reliant on a set of 15 players playing across formats and bound by the scope of getting injured any time. Even in case of injuries, they will have the services of players who are decently exposed to the rigours of international cricket, if not ODIs.
If the selectors continue to go about their business the way they are doing currently, Manoj Tiwary would still wonder why he is being ignored and a talent like Rohit Sharma might never make his Test debut. All this while India would still fail to lift itself from its current cricketing low.
(While enjoying the small joys of life, rarely has anything mesmerised Aayush Puthran more than cricket. A student of Journalism in Mumbai, he is trying to figure out two things: ways to make Test cricket a commercial hot property and the best way to beat Mumbai traffic. He has a certain sense of obsession with novelty. He might seem confused, but he is just battling a thousand demons within his mind. Nonetheless, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of coffee!)