September 2, 2011

What's with India's bizarre picks?

India's selections in the Twenty20 reflect poor planning by the men in charge

If I was a young man who had done well in the IPL, say Manish Pandey or Ambati Rayudu or Manoj Tiwary, or even S Badrinath or Yusuf Pathan, I would have been heartbroken to see the team India put out for the Twenty20 against England. None of the top three in the batting order would have made the first-choice XI, and while two of them did well, it still didn't justify their being asked to play the match.

It was great fun to watch Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul Dravid put together the partnership of the day for India, and I was delighted young Rahane was finally noticed, but they were on the ground for the wrong reasons. I would like to believe that every time an Indian team takes the field, it has to be the best possible one. At Old Trafford, India seem to look at whoever was left standing from the 50-overs team and took the field with them. By doing so they belittled the contest.

Getting the best T20 team would have meant flying in two or three players from India. It is not a staggering cost and certainly pales before the pride those players would have experienced. We send people to South Africa and to England for appointments with doctors, so surely we should be able to put them on a plane for the privilege of playing for India. Yusuf should have been there, and at least two other top-order batsmen, based on performances back home.

Selection is the most powerful arm of the BCCI, for it can encourage and admonish players, nurture them or ask them to grow further. In fact England's selectors are the unseen heroes behind their team's resurgence. At all times the aim must be to put the best Indian team on the park. India did not do that at Old Trafford.

Rahane benefitted from this lack of passion in selection, and he is a seriously good cricketer, someone we should see a lot more of in the future. He has done it the hard way; not with just a flashy innings here or there but 4673 first-class runs at 67.72, with 17 centuries. And as Dravid debuted at the other end - a farce in itself - Rahane experienced the privilege of batting with nobility.

It could be argued that part of the reason India had to go through this charade was that Gautam Gambhir was suddenly declared unfit. It was the world's most open secret that he wasn't going to play, and it's a pity it took 10 days for the decision to be made - time that could have been well spent in getting another cricketer to acclimatise to the conditions. That cricketer, Ravindra Jadeja, will now turn up cold since he wasn't with the Emerging Players Squad in Australia.

The choice of Jadeja itself is intriguing, since it isn't a like-for-like replacement. To my mind it is an admission that the team originally picked for the one-day internationals was imbalanced, with no one suited to play at No. 7. They didn't need that sort of bridge player at the World Cup because they had Yuvraj Singh as their allrounder, but here they do. The selection has been bizarre in recent times; here an opener has been replaced by a bowling allrounder.

Five international matches have come and gone on this tour and if India don't win one of the first two one-day games, they might very quickly start waiting for the tour to end, which in itself is a recipe for defeat. It will be interesting to see if India take the bolder option of playing six batsmen and five bowlers, for otherwise the bowling will be too fragile to win a tough contest. It might empower the batting - that being the reason Dravid was recalled - which is rarely a bad thing to do. And now that Dravid must play, India should be bold enough to go in with Tendulkar, Dravid, Kohli, Rohit, Dhoni and Raina, with Rahane as a back-up to the top six.

Meanwhile, word is that a new selection committee will be formed. I hope taking tough calls will be one of the criteria.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Firoz on September 6, 2011, 5:29 GMT

    I agree with Harsha that India's T-20 team wasn't certainly the best on given day. If not Yusuf for his poor show in the Carribean recently then Saurabh Tiwari or Paul Valthathy could have been in the side instead of Parthiv Patel. Parthiv isn't a T-20 player to be fit in national side. Jadega's selection or his discovery itself is baffling. He's brought out from cold storage and now it's unfair to expect that he'll perform. India now definitely should go in with 5 specialist bowlers and 6 batsmen including Rahul Dravid. Varun Aaron should get a game if he's to be there in Australia later this year.

  • saurav on September 5, 2011, 9:06 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas: I too, am curious to know what Ganguly said. His commentary was very good in the test series and he never minced or sugar coated his words. And @skagrawal4k: The numbers you dug up rip this article apart. I am surprised Harsha Bhogle didnt do his research before writing this piece.

  • Suresh on September 4, 2011, 11:45 GMT

    "Ajinkya Rahane made a half-century on his Twenty20 debut at Old Trafford, but he isn't an automatic choice for the format"

    ---------------------He is not!!!???

  • Sushreyo on September 4, 2011, 11:31 GMT

    Completely agree with this article. And that doesn't stop me from being a huge admirer of Rahul Dravid, who is in my opinion India's best (yes, best) Test batsman. When all teams around the world seem to have specialists for the T20 format, then why in the world are the Pathans and Uthappas cooling their heels back home? And for all those criticising Yusuf Pathan, let's not forget that he played 3 games in SA prior to the WC, with 2 blinders. For someone coming in so late, he will fail every now and then. And to be fair, he had to fail a lot less than several others (read Raina, Jadeja) to be ousted!!! If the selectors somehow felt a spinning allrounder would be a fitting replacement to Gambhir ( whatever the reason might be), it is shocking to see them send Jadeja, and not Yusuf. After all, what did Jadeja, (or RP Singh) for that matter, do in the recent past to warrant this sudden burst of faith in their talents... Strange is the word!!!

  • San on September 4, 2011, 11:12 GMT

    First thing to do is to prepare sporting pitches in Indian domestic cricket. Then select players who play well on this pitches. The main reason for India debacle is technical deficiency in batsmen to cope very good bowling in seaming conditions. Mainly our star players couldnt deal with bowls which are angling in and leaving the batsman.Result is edges to slips. Ex Dhoni,laxman,sehwag. Simply saying we lost the series mainly due to drawback in technique . Coming to our bowlers, frankly at present we dont have talent to take 20 wickets against good teams. This is fact.Lets face it. Secondly selection issue. The main problem is, selectorts dont have interest to watch domestic matches and judge players quality. Why is yuvaraj given more chances and why badrinath not even given single chance in test. (Leading run scorrer in ranji for three years). Thay say if you get Badrinath out, thats it. Worst selection desicions on this tour : RP singh,Zaheer Khan, Sehwag,Sreeshant.

  • Dummy4 on September 4, 2011, 10:12 GMT

    It is very obvious that given a choice between top rank and bottom line, the bcci would like to focus on the former. Thats why all these faux passes.

  • Eshwar on September 4, 2011, 8:53 GMT

    @Dipankar Sen Mukund in place of Raina in the middle order. You contradict yourself. You just said the board has to backup players out of form.

  • Srinivas on September 4, 2011, 3:16 GMT

    @Saurabh Agrawal, Ganguly said lot of things mate. You missed a lot, not just something.

  • Dummy4 on September 3, 2011, 19:51 GMT

    @DRAVID_GRAVITAS what did ganguly say?? Plz tell me dude. I wanna know. Did I miss something??

  • Srinivas on September 3, 2011, 19:25 GMT

    @shagrawal4k, can't agree more. You nailed it.

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