Varun Aaron's (right) selection makes more sense compared to that of Rahul Sharma's, but there are a few questions that need to be answered © Getty Images and AFP
Varun Aaron’s (right) selection makes more sense compared to that of Rahul Sharma’s, but there are a few questions that need to be answered © Getty Images and AFP

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Selection in Indian cricket has always been a subject of mystery, intrigue and unpredictability. Every time the ‘wise’ men of Indian cricket sit together to pick the national squad, the world anticipates selections that defy logic. It isn’t that such things happen every single time, but they are a frequent occurrence. Selection gaffes have become a part and parcel of Indian cricket.

 

The Indian team for the first Test against the West Indies has been announced and the return of the big names augurs well for the home side. The squad reads: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Virat Kohli, Varun Aaron, Rahul Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane. It is good to see that India have named a near full-strength squad. India would have been at full strength had Zaheer Khan been fit for the fray.

 

When one looks at the team, there aren’t many surprises in the batting. Yuvraj Singh’s return to competitive cricket has ensured his place in the side. On the other hand Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane’s consistent performances in the One-Day Internationals (ODIs) against England fast-tracked their promotion into the Test squad. Suresh Raina’s torrid run in the Test series in England has led to his axing, a move that was expected.

 

Rahul Sharma and Varun Aaron have made it to the Test squad despite not having impressive first-class records. Rahul impressed with his economy and control during the Indian Premier League (IPL) which got him the spotlight. Aaron’s pace has been the talk of the town for quite some time and it led to his quick rise through the ranks. The question is: Are the abilities exhibited by the two bowlers in the overs-limit format enough to earn a berth in the Test squad?

 

Rahul’s tight line and impeccable control earned him fame during the IPL season 4. His side, the Pune Warriors, had a disastrous campaign, but he stood out with consistent performances. His economy rate in the season reflects his ability to control the batsmen and the wickets column indicates rewards for the hard work. When one digs into the record books and looks at his performance in first-class cricket, the call-up to the Test squad looks absurd.

 

Here is his first class record:

 

M

Wkts

Inngs Best

Avge

Strike Rate

10

18

6-92

44.66

87.7

 

These numbers do not reflect wicket-taking ability in the longer version. In fact, his best bowling performance of six for 92 is his only five wicket haul in first-class cricket. Another pertinent point is that he made his first-class debut for Punjab in 2006 and has played only 10 games since then. It is clear that he isn’t even a certainty in Punjab’s first-class plans as he played just one game (first class) in the entire season. How can a player with such a track record merit a place in the Test side?

 

Aaron’s selection makes more sense when compared to that of Rahul’s, but there are a few questions that need to be answered. Firstly, his selection led to the axing of Praveen Kumar, whose accuracy and control over movement of the ball made him the only Indian bowler to shine in the ruins. As of now, it isn’t clear whether he is injured, rested or dropped. If he has been dropped, it is a very unfortunate development as his performance in England speaks volumes of his ability.

 

The second question: Aaron was nowhere near the top wicket-takers in first-class cricket during the last domestic season, so how can he get into the Test side? Pankaj Singh, the tall seamer from Rajasthan, topped the charts with 53 wickets and still doesn’t find himself in the national radar. The likes of Rudra Pratap Singh and Abhimanyu Mithun have done better than Aaron and have wickets to show for their efforts.

 

However, Aaron toured Australia with the India Emerging Players side and did decently well. In his two ODIs against England he has impressed with his pace and rhythmic action. Unlike Sharma, Aaron has played at the A-level and has won international caps. He has the makings of a good fast bowler, but he needs to develop a little more to get ready for the classical format. His first class record isn’t very impressive and it is clear that it is his pace that has won him the call-up.

 

M

Wkts

Inngs Best

Avge

Strike Rate

12

26

5/17

41.50

77.2

 

There is no doubt that he is one for the future, but to give him a Test cap at this stage would be premature. It is unlikely that he would play as India prefers to go in with two fast bowlers at home. Ishant would be the certainty and Yadav would make the cut considering his good first-class record. From the point of view of grooming, it is a good move to include Aaron as he would get exposure and learn a lot from the dressing room experience.

 

(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.”)