MS Dhoni-led Indian side has been below par in ODIs in recent times © Getty Images
With the 0-4 loss in New Zealand, India are placed in a ‘devil and the deep blue sea’ type of situation. On one hand, there is a need to back players with a proven track record, but at the same time, players who have failed consistently have to be replaced . Abhijit Banare elaborates on selection issues for ICC World Cup 2015.
In the fourth One-Day International (ODI) at Hamilton, MS Dhoni brought in Stuart Binny and made a few changes to the side which included picking Ambati Rayudu in the playing XI. As for the inclusion of Binny, Dhoni made a clear statement at the toss that the all-rounder will be entrusted with responsibilities of batting in the lower-order and bowl a few overs as well. With India’s bowling attack as ineffective as ever, Binny was expected to share the burden, but ended up bowling just one over for eight runs. Earlier in the day, he didn’t even get the opportunity to bat after Ravindra Jadeja and Dhoni put on a fine partnership. That was Binny’s little window of opportunity to prove himself, but now he won’t be sure about whether he will be part of the next ODI series which India plays.
The selection conundrum has become as difficult as ever for Dhoni, as he has got little time to see the new players coming through the ranks and playing for India. And if he decides to do so, it might mean dropping an experienced player like Suresh Raina for someone like Rayudu. The selection conundrum which Dhoni faces ahead will keep on increasing and the earlier he takes a call, the better it is.
Why has India landed in this situation?
There can be many ways to analyse this situation, but the present situation is more due to the success of the Indian team than their failures. Right since the ICC Champions Trophy 2013, the Indian team looked like a youthful side well on its course to do well in the ICC World Cup 2015. A new opening partnership had clicked, the bowling options were plenty and more importantly, the side was winning. Even more intriguingly, the series wins came away from home, starting with England, in West Indies, Zimbabwe and then being successful at home as well. Those victories had instilled a sense of self-belief in Dhoni and selectors that they are well on course for preparing a core group for World Cup. And moreover, it went according to Dhoni’s plan that the team travelling for the marquee tournament should have an experience of 50-60 ODIs at least. But in the process, Dhoni persisted with a winning combination and the glitches in the players technique went unnoticed. The ODI losses in South Africa was a minor jerk to wake India up, but the short ball problems had already shown Yuvraj Singh in poor light and subsequently, he lost his place in the side. But the self-belief that this team can do well was intact.
Then came the big jolt in New Zealand, where the bowlers were dragged back to ground realities and the short ball turned out to be a deadly ghost not just for Yuvraj, but many other batsmen in the team. Those players who were celebrated in October for evolving as ‘matured’ batsmen during the high-scoring home series against Australia, were hopping around in New Zealand. In hindsight, it seems like the seven ODIs against Australia was a mirage, in which everyone surrounding the team and the players got carried away.
The panic button has been pressed now not just because they lost to a No 8 side, but also because they are going to play the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. With all these losses suffered, Dhoni will truly have to take a gamble with selections and just hope that it pays off. In Rayudu, he can bank upon to come good, while backing Raina would mean him being troubled and getting out to short ball is always on the cards. In Ashwin, he can find safety as a batsman, but there is uncertainty surrounding his ability with the ball in hand.
A mix of going back to old players and backing some new picks remains the only feasible options. The failure of Dhawan and Rohit on individual level makes Gautam Gambhir an attractive proposition too.
While the above discussion has revolved a lot around batsmen, the less discussed about the bowlers, the better it is. Ishant Sharma has turned out to be a disaster. Backed series after series yet, he has failed to deliver. Moreover, it is not known as to who will be his replacement. Going back to a ‘fitter and leaner’ (as they term him these days) in Zaheer Khan feels like India picking Rahul Dravid for ODIs and Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) during the tour of England in 2011. But banking on Varun Aaron too fuels the uncertainty.
It surely is one of the nervy times for India’s 50-overs team, and one can just hope that Dhoni and selectors have that ‘Midas touch’ to get things back on track.
(AbhijitBanare 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)