Picking a team is undeniably a tricky job, yet, it is relatively straightforward too. I say ‘tricky’—because of the ethical and intellectual obligation that is inevitable. And straightforward—because majority of the players select themselves. The task of selection, at most times, is never about more than a couple of players. When Varun Aaron got picked to debut against the West Indies or when Jaydev Unadkat was chosen for the tour to South Africa, the selectors, quite obviously, weren’t looking at the ‘natural selections’. On an average, at least 70% of the mix are choice-less choices, they ought to be there. A selector earns his money on what he does with the rest 20-30% of the team. And that, quite hopelessly brings me to the rather bewildering selection of a squad to represent India-A.
Such selections are an acid test— they not only reveal the selectors’ response to an upcoming talent, but also tell us a fair bit about their overall vision. It’s a tight rope walk since selections ought to corroborate statistics, and conversely also look at the conditions they were put together in. To believe that numbers are gospel would be too naïve. And nothing would be more foolish than to ignore them completely. It’s imperative to reward the performers of domestic circuit, else we run the risk of devaluing our first-class set-up almost entirely. Such selections must also make public the roadmap the selectors have drafted for the national team, for its only natural to believe that the players who represent India-A would go on to play for India too.
Before we try and make sense of the India-A squad, which is to tour the West Indies, I’d laud the BCCI for taking the initiative. I’d like to believe that it has something to do with India’s poor showing in England and Australia. If that is indeed the case, the lessons are finally learnt. Even though West Indies isn’t the best place to test the fringe players (the prevailing conditions in the Caribbean are quite similar to Indian conditions), it’s indeed a step in the right direction, assuming that there’ll be many such tours in the near future.
Let’s now go one by one to in the team sheet to decipher if the selectors have done justice to such an opportunity.
There are four openers in the side—Rahane, Mukund, Shikhar Dhawan and Jalaj Saxena (thankfully there is no Anirudh Srikanth, for he was in the team last time such a squad was picked). It’s only fair to assume that Rahane is earmarked as a Test opener and hence it’s only just to give him more opportunities at the top. It’s another matter that he accumulated most of his first-class runs batting at number 3. But if Sehwag, a lower middle order batsman, can make the grade then why can’t a Rahane. Mukund, contrary to the popular opinion, is an automatic choice for the second opener. He’s played Test matches for India not too long ago, albeit with little success, and continues to be one of the highest run-scorer in domestic cricket. Then comes the curious case of Shikhar Dhawan. He opened the previous domestic season with two centuries in the Irani trophy tie but did nothing of note for the remainder of the season. He was duly picked for Duleep trophy (on past performances) but didn’t leave a mark there too. Is he picked only for the shorter formats of the game on the tour? If that’s the case, I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.
But if Dhawan is in the selectors’ scheme of things for Test cricket, then his selection ought be questioned. Finally, the odd selection of Jalaj Saxena. He opens for his state Madhya Pradesh in the Ranji trophy, conveniently drops down in the order in Duleep trophy and at times, plays only as an off-spinner who could bat. To give credit where it’s due, he has scored runs and taken wickets in the previous first-class season but if that’s the criteria for selection than nobody deserves it more than Vineet Saxena, who happened to be the second highest run-scorer in Ranji trophy this season. Also, if it was to pick someone from Madhya Pradesh for their good showing, T P Sudhindra, the highest wicket-taker should have been the automatic choice. Is Jalaj Saxena as an India prospect?
Pujara, Rohit, Tiwary, Robin Bist. Pujara is considered to be the most able candidate to fill the void left by Rahul Dravid. He’s technically and temperamentally suited for batting at number 3 in Test cricket and hence his performances will be monitored closely. The selection of Rohit Sharma shows that he’s in the loop for a place in the Test side. Nothing wrong with that either! Manoj Tiwary will finally get a game wearing India colours, even if there’s an ‘A’ written next to India. Robin Bist, the only player from twice Ranji champions Rajasthan, also makes the cut. While I don’t have too many issues with the overall batting line-up, I suspect if the likes of Robin will get ample opportunities. Also, wasn’t this tour an ideal opportunity to test the likes of Suryakumar Yadav, who did ever so well in the first-class season. But if the attempt is to stay away from experimenting, I’ll buy the argument.
One look at the spinners in the side tells us that that argument of ‘not experimenting, playing it safe’ is mere lip service. There’s Rahul Sharma (someone really wants him to succeed and justify his Test selection), young left-arm spinner Akshay Darekar and Jalaj Saxena, the off-spinner. Now, if there was so much emphasis on sending the next in line in the batting department, why wasn’t the same principle (thought process) followed while picking spinners. Doesn’t Pragyan Ojha deserve another opportunity? Does it also mean curtains for Chawla and Mishra? Also, isn’t there no other off-spinner left in the country that they were forced to pick a part-time bowler in Jalaj? The last time when India-A team went to the West Indies, VVS Laxman led the side. Why couldn’t have Harbhajan Singh be named in this squad? More importantly, is Jalaj the next in line after Ashwin?
India-A’s fast bowling resources make this selection even more baffling. Dinda, RP Singh, Shami Ahmed and Bhuvnesh Kumar make up that list. Instead of talking about the ones who’ve made it, I’ll throw light on the players who haven’t. In my humble opinion, Parwinder Awana was the find of the season with his consistent performances and more so with his consistent pace. Pankaj Singh has taken nearly 100 wickets in the last two first-class seasons but continues to be ignored. If Pankaj isn’t in the scheme of things, why pick him for the central zone etc? Shouldn’t someone tell him that regardless of consistent performances, he will never be considered? And what about Varun Aaron? If he’s fit, which I’m assuming that he is because he’s with Delhi Daredevils in the IPL, shouldn’t he also be on the same flight? Finally, what’s happening with Abhimanyu Mithun? Mithun was with the Indian team in Australia, shouldn’t he get a nod ahead of R P Singh?
While the selectors have managed to send a clear signal about their preferences in the batting department, their choices in the bowling department leaves me perplexed. It’s like the cart is being pulled in four different directions. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if it doesn’t reach anywhere.
This entry was posted on Friday, June 15th, 2012 at 12:47 pm
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