Wednesday 23 May 2007

Did Vengsarkar and co miss a trick?

Indian team is only one test away from the all-important England tour, yet we are no where close to finding answers to the problems that besieged Indian cricket after the World Cup debacle.

Bangladesh tour has gone horribly wrong so far, both in the timing and manner of cricket. While we can reluctantly give BCCI some benefit of doubt on the timing of the series, the same can't be said of the selectors. Indian cricket stands exactly on the same ground where it began before the Bangladesh series, perhaps with few more questions.

Vengsarkar and co should have treaded the unknown waters with some bold and imaginative selections. World cup debacle presented them a perfect opportunity to do so. After all, it was only a series against Bangladesh, where few more risks would not have been out of order.

But as Ian Chappell said, "You can intimidate teams that allow themselves to be intimidated". India allowed themselves to be intimidated by a world cup defeat against Bangladesh and it reflected in the team selections.

One of the major worries for India is its opening pair. Sehwag has been a good performer in tests – infact, he has been one of the best players in tests for India in last two years, save the recent SA series - but his pathetic ODI form has completely overshadowed the test performances. Not surprising at all, considering the obscenely high number of ODIs that India has played during this period. But it was expected that the ‘wise men’ looked through the maze of ODI figures and retain him for tests. Instead, we find Sehwag playing the ODIs and flying home when the tests began. With Jaffer getting a pair in first test, we are left with a situation where the opening configuration in England is a secret, which selectors themselves may not know. Gambhir and Jaffer have shown themselves to be too ‘flashy’ to succeed in English conditions. A player like Akash Chopra, with all the right ingredients for an opener, would have made a better choice.

The middle order though has a fairly settled look, at least for the moment. It is here that I feel selectors should have looked for the unknowns. It was a given fact that the big three – Sachin, Saurav and VVS would be back in the team for England tour, no matter what. Why not try the likes of Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara to go along with Dravid and Yuvraj for lesser series against Bangladesh? But sometimes, the fear of losing can be worse than losing itself and I suspect it played heavily in the minds of selectors.

One of the myths that is being perpetuated along the cricketing corridors is about the strength of Indian bowling. The ambling Munaf Patel is an Indian equivalent of Michael Vaughn, the inconsistent Zaheer Khan, an Indian Harmison. VRV Singh and RP Singh are yet to make any meaningful impact in their short careers. Only exceptions are Shreesanth and the old workhorse Anil Kumble, both of whom are currently injured. Admittedly, conditions in England favour the fast bowling and some of them could still make an impact. But I would have expected selectors to be proactive and rope in Bengal's Ranadeb Bose, Hyderabad’s Absolem or Delhi’s Ishant Sharma (who is now likely to make debut in the second test), only to give them a feel of what test class is all about.

Vengsarkar and co may have lost a golden opportunity to blood in youngsters at the very start of a busy season for Indian cricket. But then, planning for long term was never an Indian selector’s forte, was it?

63 comments:

Godfather said...

CG, I would really not blame selectors for the choices they made.. From last couple of months & a year, haven't they tried new players like Utapa, RP, Powar, Karthik, VRV, Ishant, Bose, Gambiar, Chawla, Patel, Sree, and many.. But, are these replacements really better than what we currently have..? Dont these just play good cricket for couple of series and then fail to play consistent cricket (other than Yuvraj, Dhoni all youngsters failed to be consistent)..

And concern is - seniors are still so solid that they cant be replaced (dravid, sachin, ganguly, laxman, kumble, agarkar,...).. even though they are not good fielders because of age.. even though they are not good enough as per their own standards.. But, still we have to rely on them as no better replacement available.... After looking at Bangla tour, wouldn't you agree that Agarkar would be still better than those VRV/Ishant..?

Unless, senior players retire (mainly Ganguly, Sachin) from ODIs and concentrate on Tests - I really cant see that selectors can do much.. Agree that they have to try new players as well - but, they cant just drop someone if his performance is better than other option...

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