Hopes of an encore may be behind Sachin Tendulkar's selection for the ODIs

Sachin Tendulkar’s return to the limited-overs comes as a huge surprise against the backdrop of ‘Vision 2015’ © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Sachin Tendulkar’s selection for the One-Day International (ODI) tri-series involving hosts Australia and Sri Lanka attracted a plethora of questions and criticism even as experts debated the seniors’ future in India’s Test line-up. Considering all the talk surrounding “phasing out” the Big Three from Test cricket; Tendulkar’s return to the limited-overs setup comes as a huge surprise against the backdrop of “Vision 2015.”

 

One mustn’t view Tendulkar’s selection rigidly keeping the 2015 World Cup in perspective. The sport’s biggest event is three years away and that gives India enough time to chalk out their plans and build a squad. At the same time, some people may argue that since that event would be held Down Under, it would have been sensible to include players in the fray for 2015 as it is difficult to see a 40-plus Tendulkar featuring in it.

 

From the outset, it looks as if Tendulkar’s selection is motivated by India’s ambitions of retaining the tri-series trophy. Four years ago, he waved his bat like a magic wand in the two finals of the Commonwealth Bank series to script a memorable triumph. The selectors and the team management may be hoping for an encore of 2008 to help India salvage some pride after the disaster of the ongoing Test series.

 

As Sidhanta Patnaik, my fellow writer at Cricketcountry, pointed out, Tendulkar’s inclusion only delays India’s plans for the future. Thus, it is Tendulkar’s responsibility to determine his continuity in ODIs so that his availability doesn’t affect the team-building process. He must decide as to how long he wants to continue playing the 50-over format so that the picture become clear for the team management. At the end of the tri-series, he may be in a position to reflect and make that crucial decision. On the other hand, he may just let the cat out of the bag by declaring this series as his ODI swansong. However, it seems to be a remote possibility.

Ajinkya Rahane loses out

Ajinkya Rahane is the biggest casualty of Tendulkar’s selection. The decision to drop him is cruel to say the least considering the promise he has shown in his opportunities in the blue jersey. He inspires confidence and is certainly one for the future. He may have made it to the squad had Manoj Tiwary not scored that hundred in the final ODI of the West Indies series last month.

 

Rahane and Tiwary were both drafted in for the dead rubber at Chennai. While Tiwary celebrated his first major milestone at the highest level, Rahane was dismissed for naught. In hindsight, one can say that it was the coup de grace for Rahane as Tiwary inched ahead of him with that knock.

 

The squad slated to represent India at the tri-series is also scheduled to play the two T20 internationals against Australia. It is bizarre that the Indian selectors keep mixing-up the ODI and T20 squads for a foreign tour. It is almost as if they are cutting costs by naming a set of players for the entirety of the limited-overs segment of the campaigns. The genuine T20 specialists ofIndia do not get the opportunity to hone their skills in such games and they have to wait for an international fixture at home or the ICC World T20.

 

When India toured England last year, they fielded a line-up comprising Ajinkya Rahane, Parthiv Patel and Rahul Dravid, men who aren’t necessarily the best T20 players in India. Rahane and Dravid performed well in that game, but India could have easily drafted in somebody like Yusuf Pathan. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is the financial powerhouse of the game and they certainly cannot complain about the costs of flying in players specifically for a solitary fixture. They can easily afford such luxuries.

 

The BCCI can take a cue from their English counterparts. When England toured India in October last year, the likes of Jos Buttler and Alex Hales were named for the only T20 international at Kolkata. They didn’t play a part in the ODI series that preceded it and it clearly shows England’s well scripted plans for each format. For the same fixture, Robin Uthappa and Pathan were named in India’s squads. It is puzzling to see the same practice not being followed when India play T20 internationals away from home.

 

Pathan is struggling with an injury as he hasn’t played a competitive game since November 2011, but Uthappa could have been in the scheme of things.

 

The inclusion of such players may only bolster the roster by two or three personnel, but it presents more options to the captain before naming his team for the shortest version. In the absence of such players, the captain may be forced to play someone who isn’t renowned for his skills in that format. The move worked with Rahane in England and one cannot expect the same to happen in the future.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)