By Nishad Pai Vaidya
In the shivering cold of Delhi, a young fast bowler produced a brilliant spell on international debut – that too in the intense pressure and scrutiny of an Indo-Pakistan match. Such was his control that he earned four maidens out of the nine overs he bowled – a spell that was pivotal in securing a narrow win for India. Shami Ahmed’s impressive performance on debut was a heartening development for Indian cricket as he showed promise with his pace and discipline. Quite inexplicably, he was benched just days later for India’s next One-Day International (ODI) against England, replaced by Ashok Dinda.
Selection inconsistencies are a known phenomenon in Indian cricket. Time and again we have seen illogical moves taken as far as team composition is concerned. Performing and in-form players have been benched to make way for favoured players. Shami is the latest victim of this bizarre and inexplicable system.
India has learnt nothing from such terrible decision in the past and the negative impact it has had on the unfortunate players unfairly sidelined.
Manoj Tiwary – Dropped after scoring ODI hundred
Manoj Tiwary is perhaps the most relevant example in the current scenario. For years, he was treated as a stop-gap option and was always a replacement. He scored a hundred during one such opportunity – against West Indies at Chennai in 201. It was an innings that promised to change things around for him. However, that did not happen as he had to wait for more than seven months for his next ODI. Despite being very consistent at the domestic level for years, a Test call-up also evades him and currently he is out injured. When will he get his rightful due?
Ajinkya Rahane – Bright spot in England, discarded thereafter
Ajinkya Rahane was also in the same boat as Tiwary. He was one of the few positives to emerge from a horrendous summer in England in 2011. As the year progressed, he did get games and impressed. But once some of the more senior and established men returned, his opportunities have been few and far in between. In fact, his omission from the one-day leg of the tour to Australia last year was shocking. The shoddy treatment by the Indian selectors almost dented his confidence. A player cannot do anything more than capitalise on his opportunities, which Rahane did.
Murali Kartik – dumped after match-winning spells
The most curious case in recent times has been that of Murali Kartik. The classy left-arm spinner was unlucky to have played when Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh dominated the spin scene. He was in and out of the side and didn’t do his reputation any harm during the limited opportunities that came his way. But, the way his international career ended was shocking. In November 2004, he bowled India to victory against Australia at Mumbai in a Test match. He won only one more Test cap after that. And at the same venue in 2007, he took a six-for against the same opposition in an ODI. Surprisingly, he played only three more ODIs after that and was never considered again.
Mohammad Kaif – Career over two games after a Test hundred
Mohammad Kaif is another player whose international career ended due to the callousness of the selection committee. On the tour to West Indies in 2006, Kaif scored an unbeaten 148 in the second Test, but three innings later his Test career was over. His one-day career was also a stop-start affair that year and he was ultimately given the boot – even though there were others who hadn’t done enough to justify their spot in the side.
Coming back to the case at hand, India have always struggled to find a good pace bowler – who can not only bowl fast, but also hit the right areas consistently. They have either found quicks who lacked control, or bowlers with impeccable discipline but no pace. Now, here is a bowler who has shown tremendous promise and the ability to combine the two areas and yet he finds himself on the bench immediately after his debut.
Shami’s spell at Delhi was no mean feat as it was not only his international debut but also a game against Pakistan. The pressure on him would have been immense. Yet he handled it very well. To bowl four maidens on debut is no small achievement and it was worth its weight in gold. While he may not have the wickets to show for his efforts, he did a commendable job.
The careers of number of Indian fast bowlers have hit a roadblock in the recent past. With such an appalling approach to selection, casualties are inevitable and Indian cricket will continue to lose promising players unless things change.
(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)