Test cricket will again take centre-stage when Australia begin their series in Chennai on February 21. The England series revealed many areas of concern for India.
The spin bowling was quite easily mastered by the opposition batsmen while India’s batting lacked skill and application.
The Australians seem to have come with a different strategy. They have five fiery pace bowlers who are aware of the hard work and patience needed on the docile wickets in India, but are convinced that speed is the key to their success in India.
The Ranji and the Irani Trophy saw some older players and domestic stalwarts getting massive scores. It is not a new phenomenon.
Once during my time playing for West Zone, I had played a Test against England and the only selection trial was the Duleep Trophy before the Australian tour in 1977- 78.
I scored half- centuries in the semi- final and final showing that I was in reasonable form. Unfortunately for me, the West Zone batting consisted of Gavaskar, Gaekwad, Vengsarkar and domestic run machine Ashok Mankad.
Similar domestic kings were in the other sides as well. Their effortless hundreds got them into the Indian side but most of them struggled and came back with a disastrous tour.
The domestic fast bowling is a far cry from the stuff that the Indian batsmen will face against international sides. The extra pace and bounce has been the reason for our poor recent performances.
The Mumbai attack did not measure up to any sort of difficulty for a seasoned campaigner and the Rest of India bowling told a similar tale. The young Ishwar Pandey was the only bright spark, but he needs to mature further to be consistently effective on the International scene.
Sreesanth has yet to find his feet having been away from cricket for a while and Harbhajan and Ojha, our front line spinners, looked far from menacing.
Runs are an important part when one is on the fringe of selection, but the five wise men of Indian cricket have to select the side on the basis of what the Indian team will have to face not only in the short term but in future series as well.
Cricket is now a professional game and selectors are equally responsible for results. They now need to involve themselves in the planning process of the captain and coach.
“Horses for courses” is a famous saying and very useful to success in modern- day cricket. The selectors need to pick a side on the basis of the wicket, atmosphere and the strength and weakness of the opponents. They also need to groom young talent for the Test series ahead.
The playing XI of the Indian side for the first two Test matches against Australia, to my mind, is a given. Most of the players certain of their places like Kohli, Pujara, Gambhir, Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were rested for the Irani Trophy.
The usual domestic runs criteria will play a part. Can one sit back and say that a knock of 63 by Shikhar Dhawan or a 51 by Ambati Rayudu or a 37 by Manoj Tiwary is less important because of a 116 by Murli Vijay or an 80 and 83 by Jaffer and Rahane.
Let us hope that the selectors use more of their right brain, the creative side, rather than the left which is the logical and safe way, when they sit down to select the Indian team.
The writer is a former Test player