Coach John Wright’s brazen words still ring fresh in my ears. Right after the famous win at Multan again the Pakistanis, he’d warned us “Enjoy this but don’t celebrate too much. Keep that for the end of the series’. Beating Pakistan in a Test match was special and beating them in their own backyard after decades was even more special. Obviously then, Wright’s diktat had been a slightly bitter pill to swallow. Why was he playing a spoilsport, I wondered. Well, I was new to the circuit and hence wasn’t privy to the strategies of the team think.
When you’re new you take everything match-by-match, whether it’s your own performance or your team’s. One solid performance with the bat and one Test win was enough to feel satisfied but that’s not what Wright and co. (Read the leadership group) were thinking, for the Indian team had to stretch the envelope a little further and go beyond winning just one Test in a series. It happened at Headingly and it happened at Adelaide too but those Test wins didn’t translate into series win, which meant that the job was left unfinished. That’s why it was important that everyone in the team was made to understand that this Indian team wasn’t going to stop at winning one Test match this time and will rest only after sealing the series. It happened at Rawalpindi.
That’s exactly what the current Indian coach Duncan Fletcher should be telling this Indian team–enjoy the win because it’s special but don’t allow this victory to take your eyes off the ultimate goal, which is to Win the series in England. So far Dhoni has been very proactive and attacking in his approach–be it the team selection of playing 5 bowlers, promoting himself to number 6 or asking Ishant to blow a barrage of bouncers, but the only box that he hasn’t ticked is picking the right XI. While he’s played Stuart Binny as the fifth bowler, he hasn’t used him enough to justify that role. In fact, at Lord’s he picked XI for the match but chose to play with only ten men.
India has been reasonably lucky that it didn’t matter much at Lord’s but if he continues to walk on the same path, a fatal mishap isn’t too far down the road. I’m not suggesting another batsman in place of Binny but an out-and-out bowler depending on the pitch prepared for the third Test at Southampton. If the pitch looks as green as the one at Lord’s I’d be tempted to go with Varun Aaron as the fourth seam option, for the first criterion to select the fourth seamer is his ability to bowl with the old ball, preferably on the day 4-5 pitch. That’s why you need a hit-the-deck-hard bowler and not a swing bowler like Pankaj or Ishwar. In case the pitch looks helping the spinners in the latter half of the match, picking Ashwin is a no-brainier. But if Dhoni decides to play only one spinner, I hope he doesn’t take Jadeja’s batting exploits at Lord’s into account, for he committed the same mistake with Binny after his match-saving knock at Trent Bridge. It must not be forgotten that Jadeja had plenty of rough to play with against 6 left-handers in the English line-up but he failed to pick wickets in both the Test matches.
Dropping Jadeja won’t win you a popularity contest but team selection should never be about pleasing people. It’s about being brutally honest in your assessment and taking ruthless decisions.
This article was first published in Mid-Day on 27.07.2014
This entry was posted on Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 at 10:36 am
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