By Karthik Parimal
Historically, India’s national cricket selection committees have not been known for making major reforms. But the enormity of Team India’s debacles in England and Australia had clearly raised the red flag. The axe had to be wielded - mercilessly. Sadly, the protectionism policy of the selectors continues, even as a distressed nation implored to infuse young blood to replace the non-performing seniors.
The job of the Indian selectors isn’t easy, given the political pressures and media glare in the country. Every move is scrutinised. But Krishnamachari Srikkanth’s outburst when grilled about Virender Sehwag’s exclusion from the side made matters worse. Srikkanth maintained that the opener hadn’t been picked solely because he wasn’t fully fit and needed time to recover. However, this gives rise to an important question: Should Sehwag be a part of the side should India qualify for the finals of the Commonwealth Bank (CB) Series? Wouldn’t it be a shame if India went in with a couple of unfit players into the finals in its quest to defend the CB Series Trophy?
Another surprising decision was the retention of Sachin Tendulkar. Should he be part of the One-Day International (ODI) side if the selectors have set their sights on the 2015 World Cup? There has been copious debate on whether Tendulkar should continue playing ODIs after the CB series, and rightly so, as there is nothing left for him to achieve in this format. The intent here is not to question the great man’s contribution to the side. It takes a lot of courage and character to keep playing for as long as Tendulkar has done. Tendulkar has it in him to bounce back – no doubting that. But the point here is that it still does not help India’s ODI team-build plans for the next World Cup.
It is also unfair that an enormously talented youngster like Ajinkya Rahane was sidelined after being the only player in the side to have handled the short deliveries with clinical precision during the disastrous tour of England. He wasn’t given a long run thereafter. If a player was touted to be the next best thing, he deserves to be given ample opportunities and not discarded after a couple of low scores. He has shown glimpses of brilliance at the top of the order and it would have augured well if he was tried in a series like Asia Cup in place of a senior.
Also, it will be a ridiculous move if Manoj Tiwary is made to warm the benches yet again. The repercussion of shelving an in-form batsman like Rohit Sharma was seen during the CB series. It surely isn’t a comforting message the selectors are conveying to the youngsters waiting in the wings. After a decent run in the domestic matches, players like robin Bist, Robin Uthappa and Abhinav Mukund would have hoped for a call from the selectors. Many expected Bist to be a part of this Indian side after his heroics in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, Duleep Trophy and Ranji Trophy. Robin Uthappa, too, performed respectably in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and deserved to be a part of the Asia Cup squad considering that he also had the experience of playing for India before. Dropping Suresh Raina, who has been given lots of opportunities, and one more middle-order underperforming batsman in favour of Bist and Uthappa would have sent a stern message across to the players saying that no one could take their place in the side for granted.
Notwithstanding all this, the selectors did take a step forward by appointing Virat Kohli as the new vice-captain. They have made it clear that Kohli is their primary choice to lead India in the future. Like Sourav Ganguly, Kohli is aggressive. And India could do well in the future having a fearless leader like him. Also, the decision to rest Umesh Yadav was a good one. You do not want the country’s current fastest bowler to burn out by playing too many ODIs. Ashok Dinda now has the opportunity to cement his place in the side and he must look to make it count.
Only time will tell if the selectors have made the right moves. However, a positive message would have been sent across if fresh legs and minds were chosen to represent India in the Asia Cup. This can also be considered as God-sent opportunity to some of the players who haven’t performed to their potential since the past few months; it could be their last for sometime if they fail to make it count in the Asia Cup. But with the Indian selectors, you never know!
(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)