The so-called “tigers” have been tamed in their own den. If one thought the defeat at Mumbai was an aberration, the Kolkata Test has sent the alarm bells ringing loud and clear. Since July 2011, India has failed in all departments as the batsmen haven’t got the runs and the bowlers have been ineffective. The two successive defeats at home have pushed the selectors to make a few tough calls. While Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh have been shown the door, Ravindra Jadeja, Piyush Chawla and Parvinder Awana have been called up. The rest of the Indian line-up remains the same for the Nagpur Test.
Perhaps the most decisive move taken by the selectors was to drop Zaheer Khan. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni once called him the Sachin Tendulkar of Indian bowling, but the axe was long overdue. The left-armer’s recent numbers reflect his struggle as he hasn’t got the wickets. In top form, Zaheer used to provide the breakthroughs upfront and then return to inflict more damage with the reverse swinging old ball – something that hasn’t happened for quite some time. Not just that, he has been a liability in the field. He has been dropped in the past and made a comeback. Things are a lot different this time as Zaheer is the senior player and axing him wasn’t very easy considering the nature of the Indian setup.
Yuvraj too had to go considering the way he has been dismissed in the last two Tests. A previous article discussed how Yuvraj often gets in and gets out in Test cricket without scoring big. He would script those fluent 30s, 40s or even the occasional fifty, but those displays aren’t enough to establish oneself in the long run. India needs a stable option at number six and they must move beyond the Yuvrajs and the Suresh Rainas.
Having said that, Jadeja’s selection doesn’t make a lot of sense although he has scored two triple tons this season. The team management seems to have a liking for Jadeja as he has been backed in the past despite performing poorly. The two triples created the opportunity to bring him into the Test squad. His selection has come at the expense of Manoj Tiwary – a man who has done everything to merit a place in the Indian team.
Tiwary can only blame his luck for his fate. He has been very consistent at the domestic level for years and still doesn’t find himself in the Test squad. Despite having a superior First-Class record when compared to Yuvraj and Raina – the two southpaws were often in the fray and Tiwary wasn’t even considered. In the India A game, he scored a fighting knock, but an all-round performance by Yuvraj beat him. And now, Jadeja scores two triples – enough to eclipse the years of consistency shown by Tiwary.
Jadeja’s bowling may have have played a huge role in the selection though. He has been amongst the wickets this year to go with his runs and India might want to bolster their spin department. Harbhajan’s selection itself was inexplicable and the selectors have done well to drop him. He didn’t merit a place in the Test squad let alone the eleven and if he has to get back, he needs to perform in First-Class cricket.
Chawla’s call-ups are often surprising and baffling. Time and again, he is picked from near obscurity to make his way to the highest level. He hasn’t done anything of note in domestic cricket to deserve the call-up and an Amit Mishra would have been a more suitable option. In his last two games, Mishra has picked 12 wickets and seems to be in form. Not just that, but he also troubled the English batsmen in their warm-up game against Haryana. With such numbers, Mishra certainly deserved a look-in ahead of Chawla.
In a nutshell, the omissions made complete sense as they were the non-performing members in the squad. However, the selectors have undone that good work with two iffy choices. The only new addition that makes sense is that of Awana – a young promising fast bowler who has the goods to succeed. He has pace and has done well in First-Class cricket to back his call-up.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)