While Team India basks in the glory of the World Cup honour, we must certainly spare a thought and laud the Indian selectors for meticulously deciding on a team that brought us this ultimate glory. They are men who are often confronted with tough choices and their decisions prove crucial in deciding the country's chances at the International arena. So, one must give them credit in all certainty. While it's relatively easy to pick a squad and then the final XI if your best players are fit, available for selection and most importantly in-form, striking the right combination is still a challenge. Even though we cracked the code during the WC campaign, something seems to have gone completely awry in the first International series post the WC triumph posing questions of serious concern. While most key players made themselves unavailable, Zaheer and Sreesanth joining that list too, Praveen Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun got a look in. Mithun, the leading wicket-taker in 2009-10 domestic season, left everyone impressed with his only international exposure against Sri Lanka a year ago. Praveen may not have played for India in the longer format but has been the spearhead of Uttar Pradesh's bowling line-up. He took wickets in heaps, thanks to his ability to move the ball both ways and the immense control he possesses. Hence, giving Praveen an opening in the longer format should not raise eyebrows. Mithun too, after impressing one and sundry in his debut series, quite unexpectedly, fell out of favour and is making a comeback of sorts. Again nothing wrong with that.
But before going any further, allow me to take you a few months back to the series in South Africa. India had picked two rookies in Jaidev Unadkat and Umesh Yadav. The two didn’t quite enjoy a spectacular domestic season to merit the selection, but I’m assuming that the decisive factor was the potential. While Unadkat played in one Test match, Yadav warmed the bench throughout the tour. On their return from South Africa, they went on to represent their respective Zone sides in the only four-day domestic tournament left in the season - the Duleep Trophy. While they didn't quite set the world on fire, they did enough to leave an impression. Since Umesh was in the Central Zone, I saw his exploits from close quarters and can vouch for his decent showing. He did beat the batsmen for sheer pace. Unadkat took 5 wickets in his only outing for West Zone which isn't too bad either. Both played sporadically for their franchisees in the IPL and hence didn't do much to write home about. Now, only a few months down the line, both Unadkat and Yadav have been conveniently given a cold shoulder even as Zaheer and Sreesanth have opted out. If we picked them on the basis of 'potential', then why dump them without giving enough opportunities to realize that potential? It won't surprise me if we go back to them after a year like we have with Mithun. While there's nothing wrong in trying new talent, there certainly has to be a method to this madness, for this inconsistency might send out the wrong signals. Every time they are picked to fill-in, the players know that their days are numbered unless they take a five-for or score a century on debut. Playing under such tremendous pressure may affect their psyche and also hamper their performance. Also, spare a thought for Pankaj Singh, the guy who took 53 wickets in the last first-class season, took his team from Plate Division to the trophy, impressed everyone during Duleep and Deodhar trophy and yet hasn't managed to get a chance. Yes, he did get to play an ODI a year ago (in which he didn't get any wickets) but is that enough to test anyone's skills? What about his sterling performances in the domestic season?
I therefore reiterate the importance of rotating the players while they are at their peak. It's imperative to have Zaheer Khan standing at mid-on while nurturing a rookie. The key is to include our bench strength into the fold and avoid using them as stop gap arrangements. One must plan ahead rather than wait for the eleventh hour for things to go off track. If you invest faith in a certain player, you put your judgment on the line too. In case your faith in the player is fickle, it's only wise to back your own judgment to give the player long enough rope, lest we must be prepared to lose a lot of promising players.