By Nishad Pai Vaidya
It was a day when sentiment and unfounded logic ruled over judgment. While picking the Test team to face New Zealand, an India A side and the squad for the ICC World T20 2012, the Indian selectors made a number of bizarre choices that baffled the cricket world. Yuvraj Singh’s selection was clearly based on overflowing emotions in awe of his remarkable fight against cancer, whereas Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla’s call-ups made little or no sense at all. The gaffes don’t stop there as there are more selections in the squads announced on Friday.
Perhaps the most surprising selection for the Test series versus New Zealand is that of Suresh Raina. The southpaw’s struggle against the short ball is well documented and is common knowledge in the cricket world. While he has become a fantastic limited-overs player – a format where he can attack the short ball – his defensive technique against the same delivery has been found wanting in Test cricket. During the horrendous tour to England last year, this flaw was brutally exposed and India had to go back to the drawing board to find new options for the No 6 six spot.
It isn’t clear whether Raina has put in some specific effort to correct his flaw. Even if that is the case, there are other contenders who deserved a spot in the Test team ahead of him. Manoj Tiwary, the Bengal batsman, has been very consistent at the domestic level for a number of seasons and it would have been a good call to promote him to the Test squad. It almost looks as if he has been branded as a one-day specialist – a tag that may be eclipsing his credentials for the longer versions. He may not have enjoyed a very good time in the Caribbean with India A, but when compared to a Raina, he is a better bet for the Test squad.
Rohit Sharma’s poor form in the recently-concluded tour to Sri Lanka has probably edged him out of contention for the New Zealand series. He was in the squad for the Test series against Australia early this year and retaining him wouldn’t have been a bad move. The selectors may not have been able to keep his recent failures aside while picking the squad. But, then again despite the same failures he has been chosen for the World T20. He certainly has the goods to do well in Test cricket and should be backed. It was only in Sri Lanka that he failed, but had a decent time at the international level since the last year.
Coming to the World T20, the comeback of Yuvraj stole all the headlines and one gets the feeling that his entry may be a premature move. If a fairytale has to happen, it would happen anyways and there is no point rushing into it and risk spoiling the party. A well-timed return makes more sense as Yuvraj hasn’t played competitive cricket since late last year, barring a few practice games. That doesn’t seem enough for someone coming back to the highest level. His fight against cancer has been truly inspirational, but one cannot get carried away by emotions and sentiments.
In the bargain, Ajinkya Rahane has lost out on a deserving spot in the squad for the World T20. The Mumbai batsman was absolutely fantastic during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2012 as he was prolific for the Rajasthan Royals. The most striking feature of his batting was his conventional approach where all his shots had class written all over them. He didn’t play a shot in anger and merely caressed it through the gaps. For a player to maintain such fantastic balance in the crude format was simply commendable. With the weight of such runs and fantastic quality, Rahane should have walked into the side compared to a Yuvraj.
Rahane could have also made it to the squad ahead of Tiwary. The Bengal batsman has had a good time in Sri Lanka, but his record in the IPL wasn’t too impressive when compared to Rahane’s numbers. Tiwary’s bowling may have been decisive factor as his leg-spinners made an impression during the one-day series in Sri Lanka. However, with Yuvraj in the squad and a few other part-timers, that cannot be a very crucial criterion. Rahane could certainly have made the cut when one considers that argument.
India A squad
The India A squad also has some iffy choices. Abhinav Mukund – a man who averaged in single figures on the Caribbean tour – has been appointed captain and retained in the squad as an opener. He may have amassed tons of runs in First-class cricket, but to retain him after such horrendous failures and appoint him captain is inexplicable. Vineet Saxena – the Rajasthan opener – who was also very consistent in the domestic season, misses the cut yet again.
Wriddhiman Saha’s omission was also a huge surprise as he was a rare success on the tour to the Caribbean. Not only has he impressed with his clean wicket-keeping, but also his stable and dependable batting. He could have been retained to groom him as an understudy to Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Keeping Saha in the fray is imperative because it is common knowledge that Dhoni may give up a format in 2013 to play through to the 2015 World Cup. In that eventuality, Saha is the best bet to replace Dhoni.
Selection has always been a very intriguing process in Indian cricket – one that has always attracted unwanted attention. What is more surprising is that the selectors continue to make shocking omissions and inclusions, and attempt to justify it with unconvincing arguments. Even after years of inexplicable policies, the selectors never cease to amaze you.
(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)