The Indian selectors have announced the best possible combination for the One-Day International (ODI) series against Sri Lanka. However, Sachin Tendulkar’s absence is mysterious. Apart from the maestro’s absence, the squad looks good and has the goods to succeed in Sri Lanka.
Nishad Pai Vaidya reviews the Indian squad for the tour to the Emerald Isle.
In a bid to regain lost glory, India set sail to Sri Lanka with their strongest available personnel. It isn’t exactly the same side that lifted the 2011 World Cup, but does feature a number of names that made the country proud on April 2, 2011. While Pragyan Ojha and Zaheer Khan’s return is an encouraging development, Sachin Tendulkar’s absence is a mystery. However, Team India seems a formidable combination – stronger than the one that was fielded during the Asia Cup.
The 14 member India squad to tour Sri Lanka for the One-Day International (ODI) series: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c & wk), Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, Gautam Gambhir, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Ashok Dinda, Suresh Raina, Vinay Kumar, Rohit Sharma, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwary, Rahul Sharma.
Krishnamachari Srikkanth’s claimed that this side was selected on the basis of performance – a plausible explanation given India’s struggles in the recent past.
The only fly in the ointment is the Tendulkar conundrum. Srikkanth said that Tendulkar wants to “extend his career” and is “spacing it out very well.” In the current scenario, these arguments do not justify Tendulkar’s decision to skip the tour. The same strategy made sense in the lead-up to the 2011 World Cup as India tried to preserve him in cotton wool ahead of the big event. However, to expect the 39-year old Tendulkar to be fit to play the 2015 World Cup is too farfetched. The question is: Is he trying to “extend his career” for the mega event? The selectors and Tendulkar have to provide convincing explanations to justify this inexplicable move.
Even if Tendulkar is trying to extend his career without a clear aim in mind, where does it leave India’s plans for the 2015 World Cup? If he returns to the one-day line-up a few months down the line, it may come at the expense of an Ajinkya Rahane or a Manoj Tiwary. The duo has already suffered in the past and if they perform in Sri Lanka, a Tendulkar comeback may spoil their chances of holding on to their spots.
Despite the failures in the Caribbean, it is good to see Rahane and Tiwary getting the nod. Dhoni, Sehwag, Kohli, Gambhir, Rohit and Raina are certainties in the eleven. Thus, Rahane and Tiwary would have to compete for the seventh spot i.e. if India decides to play seven batsmen. Unfortunately, they may not get a chance to bat at the top as Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli and Rohit form a formidable top four. Nevertheless, it would be a crucial series for both as the one who performs would hold on to his spot when Tendulkar returns. Tiwary’s hundred at Chennai helped him keep his place and edged Rahane out of the squad for the tri-series in Australia. This time around, it may be Rahane’s chance to return the favour.
Zaheer’s comeback promises to give the bowling attack more teeth – one that looked absolutely ordinary during the Asia Cup in Bangladesh. Umesh Yadav’s inclusion adds dimension to the attack as his pace can rattle the batsmen. Vinay Kumar has been persisted with as he showed a marked improvement in Australia earlier this year. On the other hand, the selectors have done well by taking note of Dinda’s performance in the Caribbean and rewarding it with a call-up.
The most decisive move taken by the selectors was to drop Ravindra Jadeja. The promise of his comeback in England withered away during a tough summer in Australia. His bowling, in particular, was a huge disappointment as the wicket-taking zing seemed to elude him. With this decision, the selectors have sent out a clear message that promise alone wouldn’t keep a player in the side and it is performance that counts.
Ojha’s return to the one-day setup is a welcome change as it comes nearly two years after his last appearance in the blue jersey. Despite being one of India’s best spinners, the selectors confined him to the longer version and tried other options in one-dayers. It was bizarre considering the fact that Ojha has proved his mettle as a good limited-overs bowler in the Indian Premier League (IPL). He gives the ball good air and can turn the ball – something that would be useful on Sri Lankan wickets. Ironically, he played his last ODI in Sri Lanka.
The Hyderabadi left-armer’s chances of playing would depend on whether Dhoni decides to play two spinners. In that case, Ashwin and Ojha should make the cut ahead of Rahul Sharma – who hasn’t enjoyed a good run in recent times. If Dhoni opts for three fast bowlers and a spinner, Ashwin would walk into the side given his consistency over the last year. Zaheer and Umesh should be the certainties in the fast bowling department. Vinay Kumar would play ahead of Dinda if a third seamer is required.
Rahul's selection is a little iffy. The leg-spinner has had limited opportunities at the highest level and is coming off a disappointing tour to the Caribbean. When compared to the phenomenal season he had in 2011, the IPL 2012 was a lukewarm affair. However, he has made his way due to the dearth of quality spinners as Amit Mishra, Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla have fallen out of favour in the recent past.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)