India's selection for Tests and World T20 August 10, 2012

Selections pose more questions than answers

While fans anticipated some response to 0-8, the selectors gave it all a farcical turn with strange picks for reserves

The sight of Kris Srikkanth, the outgoing chairman of selectors, rattling off incoherent sentences and either not respecting or not taking questions around the logic of selections is all too common. On Friday afternoon, he said he was doing so for the last time as his term comes to an end, and for one last time he left a bizarre selection unexplained. Before the meeting, the fans were all interested in seeing how the selectors respond to the eight straight overseas Test defeats and whether they look to late 2013 and 2014 when India tour South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia, but the Indian selectors gave it all a farcical turn with strange picks for the reserves.

There were legitimate questions and anticipation in the fan's mind. Will the selectors deem Virender Sehwag good enough to open on the four away tours come late 2013 (his average on his last four tours to those countries is 24, 28, 10 and 26 respectively) and risk a new opener in those conditions should he fail? Or will they try him in the middle order now that there are going to be vacancies? Is VVS Laxman going to make it to 2014? If not, how long will he be picked? Laxman has had only one really miserable series and merits a place in the side, especially with Rahul Dravid just retired, but will the selectors give out any pointers to the future? Does Zaheer Khan look good to go on till those away tours?

And yet, the team sheets rolled out were such that you forgot all those big questions and started to try and get your head around other selections. And no, Yuvraj Singh's comeback is not the inexplicable one. On surface it might seem like an emotional move, considering he has not proved match fitness yet, but this is also a calculated risk. Before the World Twenty20, there are two T20s against New Zealand, and before that there is the Buchi Babu tournament. So if things don't go to plan, Yuvraj can be replaced for the big one, but if he is fit there is no need to restate the kind of matchwinner he can be on the big day.

It's the other picks that leave you flummoxed. What, for example, has Piyush Chawla done to earn both a Test and T20 recall? Is there any phantom tournament you have missed and only the selectors have watched? An average of 40 in the last Ranji Trophy, and an average of 26 and economy-rate of 7.35 in the last IPL, didn't exactly dare the selectors to not pick him. He wasn't even considered good enough for India A's last tour.

It's interesting to look at the two spinners who have been pushed out because of Chawla's return. It seems there is more than cricket to the sudden exclusion of Rahul Sharma from both the Test and T20 side. Last checked his bounce and accuracy had everybody impressed. Now he is nowhere to be seen. If this is disciplinary action for the alleged positive dope test at a party, the BCCI will be better off to say so.

And what of Pragyan Ojha then? He can take the ball away from the right-hand batsmen too, he has been more impressive in IPL, he has done well in home Tests, his stats after limited opportunities in limited-overs internationals are not bad (economy rates of 4.46 and 6.28 in ODIs and T20Is), but for some reason in the game of musical chairs being played among the Indian spinners, Ojha is often the man standing up when the music stops.

It is true that selection is not based on stats alone, but India have already burnt their fingers with a similar punt on Chawla in the last year's 50-over World Cup. A much more understandable yet surprising punt is Harbhajan Singh, who brings with him experience, proven combative qualities and decent containment role during the Twenty20 leagues. And while we are at it, if Rahul is indeed being disciplined and if you were told there were only two Test spinners left in India - Chawla and Harbhajan - who'd you rather go with? A similarly understandable gamble is L Balaji, who went for 5.4 an over in the IPL, but Praveen Kumar's absence continues to confound.

The last time Chawla was picked for India, Rohit Sharma was primed for a place in the World Cup squad and had to make way. Rohit doesn't lose out on his World Cup place this time, but he has been denied the Test bench he warmed with such frustration in Australia, coming desperately close to a debut. Granted he has failed in ODIs in Sri Lanka, but how does it earn him a T20 reward and cost him a Test place? Suresh Raina, on the other hand, has played his role in late middle order in ODIs commendably, but has he done enough since he was dropped from Tests last year to allay the concerns against Raina the Test batsman?

Ishant Sharma, who bucked the trend of picking IPL over internationals and underwent ankle surgery, has yet to prove his match fitness but is back in the Test squad. Unlike Yuvraj, Ishant will hardly get any opportunity to do so before the first Test begins on August 23. This is a selection coming from a committee that had vowed to make proven fitness a non-negotiable after the debacle in England last year.

And guess who is back as vice-captain of the T20 side? Gautam Gambhir, who lost that slot for unexplained reasons after Australia, has now somehow usurped Virat Kohli, who was the vice-captain until the recently concluded tour of Sri Lanka. The Test side continues to be without one.

Srikkanth, though, as the chairman and the public face of the selection committee, doesn't have the time to throw more light on these selections. "I'm in a rush," he says. The BCCI could just as well not announce the team, and let people find out on the day of the match.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Gokul anand on August 14, 2012, 4:16 GMT

    The selectors are in a lot of confusion. you play rahane in 1 T20 and then oust him form the next T20 team.. but wait.. he has found a place in the test team? selectors are merely trying to fill gaps rather than trying to get the best players in. piyush chawla again?? we all know how he performed in WC 2011 and IPL this year.Raina is a ODI and T20 specialist pls dont put him in tests.. he is going to fail. we have given enough chances to rohit, please get him out. what happened to varun Aaron??? why not pick igbal abdulla or nadeem if u r looking for IPL performers.?? the funny thing is that when IPL was first introduced. the chairman of selector said that the IPL performances wont be taken into consideration for the Indian team's selection!!!

  • vishal on August 13, 2012, 13:32 GMT

    atuljain1969.. see when they performances is good in the ipl then bcci will think of letting them play limited overs games for India and if they performances is good enough to play test cricket then they will allow them to play.. basically they have to do well in all the games but Harbhajan didn't do anything of that.. now he will play limited over cricket for India for a important tournament so it could better if the selection community could pick someone else maybe an extra keeper

  • Arshad on August 13, 2012, 13:08 GMT

    Why the hell did they want to select that attitude ridden piyush chawla he is like venkatapathy raju was in his time a real bad luck for team India...anyway god save our team

  • Sony on August 13, 2012, 11:24 GMT

    Thank God this selection panel is going out. No matter how much money bcci spend on improving cricket in India, if we have selectors like these, all those money will go waste. seriously we need to find some people with atleast basic commonsense. Selection of harbajan, piyush chawla in main team and exclusion of bist, awana from A team clearly shows either these guys does not have commonsense or they are doing this purposefully for whatever advantages they get.

  • M on August 13, 2012, 11:17 GMT

    Piyush Chawla ??? Seriously ??? he shouldn't bowl 4 overs in T20 if India has to win ... Let alone Test matches

  • Ravi on August 13, 2012, 11:06 GMT

    For the first time in the last 16 years, I'm not going to support Indian team. I will start supporting Indian team only if the Test team reads as follows: Gambhir, Rahane, Pujara, Kohli, Rohit, Dinesh Karthik, Irfan Pathan (assuming his swing and speed is back), Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Rahul Sharma, Ojha/Praveen Kumar (Depending on the conditions). I know this team will lose more matches initially and start winning consistently once they are given long run. Anyways, present team is not winning anything either. It's better to lose with a young crop of players than with old aging star players.

  • Nav on August 13, 2012, 10:56 GMT

    I think this selection is good for team India. There is no need to shout now. The selectors will come to know their mistake after the test series. India will lose the series at home! That will surely wake them up. I will call them fools then because they selected an ODI specialist Raina in the test team and a test specialist Rohit for other formats. They seem to give Rohit the test cap only if he can prove in other formats! They will spoil everyone's talent if they continue to select this way.

  • Dummy4 on August 13, 2012, 9:31 GMT

    We should do away with the selection board and start rating the players on domestic performance and international performance and would select them based on their ratings.

    Thus the team would then select itself.

    The system should also take into account the cohesiveness as a unit and how players should be axed on the performance of Indian team e.g in event of a total victory over opponent only a 15% change is permitted (if nobody is retiring). In a situation of washout 100% team should be open to change.

  • vishal on August 13, 2012, 9:28 GMT

    see Harbhajan was drop from the team because of poor performance in the England tour... i don't know why is bbci called him.. if a player is called up must be because of his good performance in some series or ipl.. talking about ipl i didn't see him even doing his playing role (blower) he didn't even blow 4 overs as blower should be doing.. also i think yuvraj wont be that fit like before to play like he would be doing very nice fielding like what he had done in world 2011.. also its time for the selection community to say to player like sachin and laxman that you guys are the best players India had and we can see it from the records and its time for you guys to retried.. one thing more is that if Australia cricket borad can drop Ricky Ponting for not being in form then why not bcci do that? we have a lot of youth players which are needed in the team..

  • Dummy4 on August 13, 2012, 9:21 GMT

    We in India should do away with the selectors and should come up with a proper policy for selection which takes performance and give points to that. e.g. a team would have 2wk, 6 batman, 6 bowlers; then the bowlers are ranked and on the their performances at domestic level and international level. Proper weights should be given to various situation, brownie point for few special positions. Thus the team would select itself based on their ranking. Other points could be: 1) Age can be penalized after a certain year in the favor of youth. 2) in case of ties special consideration for one who played more on international surfaces 3) provision extra points against the tougher opponents 4) more preferences for those who have played on varied circumstances. 5) Quota for spinners or all rounder

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