“All powerful teams go through a period of transition”, BCCI President N Srinivasan told The Week recently. Srinivasan though left the onus on the selectors to put a phasing out plan for seniors into motion.
It's a pity, but not a surprise, that the Krishnamachari Srikkanth-led selection committee missed the boat yet again to introduce new faces in India's squad for the Asia Cup in Bangladesh; thereby letting go of another opportunity to initiate the transition and start building a team with an eye towards the 2015 World Cup.
The manner in which the squad itself was announced smacked of miscommunication with Manoj Tiwary being initially omitted and then included in the 15-member squad. Also, by sticking with almost the same set of players (especially under-performers), who have been at the receiving end of more than a few crushing defeats in the recent past; and not showing the courage to take some tough decisions, the selectors have sent out a wrong message.
Suresh Raina (182 runs in eight innings at an average of 26) and Ravindra Jadeja, who has scored only 101 runs in seven innings at an average of 16.83 and taken three wickets at an average of 109 in the ongoing Commonwealth Bank tri-series in Australia should consider themselves mighty lucky to be on the flight to Bangladesh.
Raina, especially, is been giving a long rope despite failing more often than not since India's victorious campaign in the 2011 World Cup; and has not been benched even in the CB Series leaving Manoj Tiwary to cool his heels on the bench. Rohit Sharma has been far from his best in the five ODIs he has played in Australia, and though he deserves to get another opportunity on the international stage, he could be fast running out of time in the short term should he fail to impress in Bangladesh.
India's selectors for some strange unexplained reason like using the word 'rested' of dropped, and unsurprisingly, Srikkanth used it as a life support to explain the exclusions of Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav from the squad.
"Unfortunately Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan have been asked to take rest by the physio. They have been rested purely on injury grounds. We have gone strictly by the medical report which says Sehwag and Zaheer need rest because of injury problems. I can assure you 500 per cent that nobody has been dropped," Srikkanth told reporters after the selection committee finished its meeting in Mumbai yesterday.
Sehwag has struggled to score runs in Australia, and while Zaheer was on song in the Test series in Australia, he has been off-colour in the CB Series. There are greater chances of the pair being dropped than being 'rested' for obvious reasons. The case of Yadav needing rest so early in his international career also defies logic; and raises questions over the trio's fate should India qualify for the CB Series finals because they certainly can't take the field if they have been certified as not being fit enough.
After India's squad for the CB Series had been announced, I wrote this article and wasn't surprised by the reaction of most readers to the same. Sachin Tendulkar's inclusion in the Asia Cup squad has again left me flabbergasted for more than one reason. Tendulkar's form in Australia has been ordinary and he has struggled to score runs; he has picked and chosen when and where he plays the 50-over format over the last three years; nobody in the selection committee has the guts to ask him about his future plans and last but not the least, this is yet another opportunity given to him to get that elusive 100th international century. Tendulkar played only 46 ODIs between 2008 and 2011, of these nine were in the World Cup last year; and the CB Series is his first appearance in one-dayers since that tournament.
Tendulkar runs the risk (if he already hasn't) of overstaying his stay in India's ODI team, and one can only hope he'll announce his retirement from the 50-over format after the Asia Cup, irrespective of whether he has scored his 100th international ton or not. In 2007, Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly opted out of the inaugural edition of the Twenty20 World Cup in favour of the young brigade; the 'Master Blaster' would do well to emulate that again because it's quite apparent the decision of when he quits ODIs has been left to him by the selectors.
Australia's selectors though didn't have any such qualms in pulling the plug on former Ricky Ponting's illustrious ODI career after his failures in the initial matches of the CB Series as they told him clearly that he is not in their plans for the 2015 World Cup. While announcing that Ponting had been dropped, chief selector John Inverarity said, "The team will not seem the same without him, but moving on from the omission of players who have been outstanding over a long period of time is the nature of elite sport." Srikkanth and the other India team selectors would do well to pay heed to not only that statement of Inverarity's; but also to the points my colleague raised in this article.
To be fair to the selectors they didn't get it all wrong though as Yusuf Pathan and Ashok Dinda were rewarded for their performances in domestic cricket and recalled to the India team.
The most positive outcome of the selection committee's meeting on Wednesday though was the elevation of Virat Kohli as vice-captain. Kohli has not only been India's most successful batsman in ODIs over the last couple of years, but he has also been a former India under-19 World Cup captain and it will be interesting to see how he responds to the added responsibility. "I think the question is that we all have to look forward to a slightly futuristic point of view. We all, the selection committee and the board, feel that Virat Kohli is a good future captaincy material," Srikkanth said.
This makes it all the more ironic that the selection committee hasn't taken a 'futuristic point of view' in other areas of the team. Players like Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik, Wriddhiman Saha, Kedar Jadhav, Robin Bist and Parvinder Awana deserve their opportunities on the international stage; and the longer the transition process is delayed, the question that will be asked of the selection committee, is if not now, then when?