January 11, 2013

Why are India's home ODI squads so large?

Having lots of players sitting around doesn't really do anyone concerned any good

Cheteshwar Pujara's selection to India's one-day international team was inevitable, to the extent that you must wonder why it took so long coming. (But since picking a team is much easier when you don't have to actually pick and choose players, we'll let that be.) However, since he has been added to a squad that is far too big anyway, we need to see whether or not he actually gets to play. And that is where I believe the selectors need to send a clearer signal.

As I see it, there is no point in playing Pujara anywhere below No. 4. With Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh at 3 and 4, that really leaves only one of the opening slots. By leaving out Virender Sehwag, the selectors have clearly told Ajinkya Rahane that he is going to get a bit of a run at the top of the order, which means Pujara will need to play in place of Gautam Gambhir, if at all.

The other alternative, of course, is that Yuvraj plays Suresh Raina's role at No. 6 and Kohli slips to 4 to allow Pujara in at 3, but I think Kohli has earned the right to own his batting position.

Now if indeed there has to be a choice between Pujara and Gambhir, I believe it is appropriate that the selectors make it rather than the captain and coach. In any case, teams are decided after consulting the team management, so it shouldn't be too difficult for them to choose one or the other.

But if Pujara is indeed left out, it makes no sense to have him with the team, given that Saurashtra have had a wonderful season in the Ranji Trophy and they will need him if they are to progress further. He is playing such dominant innings for them that it would be criminal to have him sit around. It's a bit like with Rohit Sharma - for Mumbai, he is the star, the match-winner, and he will be far more positive being wanted there rather than taking caps or water out for someone in the India side.

That is why India must pick no more than 13 players for a home one-day international. One reserve batsman, one reserve bowler. That means most people are sure of their places, which is nice. Picking players on the morning of a game, which means having them spend the night in suspense, does nobody any good. With 13 you cover for a late injury, and really you don't need more cover than that. In good teams you must have as few people as possible who have little chance of playing.

On another note, I hope the BCCI is very unhappy with the way the Ranji Trophy quarter-finals have gone. Three of the four matches were one-innings affairs, and while the weather may have played a part in one of those, there is no way that can be good for Indian cricket. Teams need to play to win outright, not take a first-innings lead and then sit down to lay an egg on it. Mumbai refused to go for an outright win in their last league match, which I hope earned them a rebuke somewhere, and they weren't particularly keen to ask their bowlers to bowl Baroda out a second time in the quarter-final either. I know they need to budget for workloads and potential injuries but it makes the Ranji Trophy a poorer tournament. Anything that leads to bouts of meaningless cricket cannot be good. And there has been a lot of meaningless cricket this year on pitches where bowlers have been rendered toothless.

That is why I am so eager to see young Jiwanjot Singh. I spoke to a couple of umpires and they told me that the pitches in Punjab this year were green and helped seam bowlers a lot. Runs in those conditions are more valuable, and Jiwanjot has four hundreds (including a double) this year.

On the flip side, Amol Muzumdar has made five centuries. I have long been an admirer of Muzumdar's cricket, but the fact that at this stage in life he is scoring centuries on demand speaks very poorly of the bowling he is up against. And it merely illustrates my view, long held and routinely reinforced, that having so many teams in first-class cricket does Indian cricket more harm than good.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Bala on January 14, 2013, 15:51 GMT

    Its high time now and BCCI should come out of its money making thoughts and try to be innovative and improve Indian cricket. It's our Countrymen sheer talent that is running Indian cricket for all these days and there hasnt been any effort from BCCI to improve Indian cricket. With the money BCCI has got, it should plan for a 3-match series in England or SA every year by picking up 2 teams with emerging or young players. It will get them exposure to play outside and accustom to all the conditions.

  • Nathan on January 14, 2013, 14:10 GMT

    Harsha ...there is no meaning in having Ranji league matches of 4 days and one of the teams bats for 2 days to gain points on first innings lead. What this reflects there is no contest between ball and bat, as the pitches are benign to the bowlers capability or the other way around. To make force a decision and give equal opportunity to both the team, the league matches should provide 2 first innings of 105 overs and two second innings of 75 overs each (90 overs/day x 4 days = max 360 overs) OR make the matches 5 days duration with 2 first innings of 120 overs and 2 second innings of 105 over each (90 overs/day x 5 days = 450 overs). This could make it more interesting by changing the points awarded for the teams that shows real class in their capabilities.

  • Mohammed on January 14, 2013, 11:43 GMT

    That's not an issue, what has been raised by Harsha, the issue is selecting "Performing Eleven"...India often end up playing non-performing players who keep repeating their dismal performances and only help the side being white washed. The team management should be ruthless when it comes to selecting performing playing eleven, and this should be done regardless of the pedigree of the player.....so only the fittest be on the team.

  • Rashid on January 14, 2013, 7:29 GMT

    Picking 15 players for home matches is madness in either ODI or Tests. Selectors should announce their eleven and one or two reserves before one or two days. That will give a clear focus on players. Australia successfully following this idea for long time now. About Ranji trophy, it should be league matches instead of knock outs with 8 or 6 qualified teams, then teams will try to win each matches for topping the table. Then Associations will try to make spotting wicket for getting results.

  • Unni on January 14, 2013, 1:46 GMT

    I totally supports your view, Harsha. If we want better cricketers then we need to give them the best pitches, grounds & other facilities during domestic matches. First we need change our mindset regarding pitches. Pitches should be made for playing 'Cricket' & not for 'Batting'. Then I guess half of our problem will be solved. :) What's your opinion, Harsha?

  • rahul on January 14, 2013, 1:38 GMT

    i dnt know why ppl get so cynical with kohli.... he's also a human being.... giving him chance is really important because he's the player to watch out in future... so many centuries last year including a few in ausstralia... that shows the mans potential... pujara must be given opportunity but not at the expence of kohli..... and gambhir has to increase his solidarity... even if his runs come at a strike rate of 80 odd.... in the last couple of years india has given him so many lifeless pitches to play that he goes for big shots and gets out all the time.. indian cricket must stop preparing lifeless batting belters even fro ranji cricket... because that encourages the bowlers to bowl fast and with effort and tests the batsmen

  • Kuldeep on January 13, 2013, 23:17 GMT

    Too many unsound decisions by selectors, they need to cut down the squad to 12. The captain Dhoni and the rest of the management keep picking the same XI with the same disappointing results. The inform players bought from Ranji Trophy do not get to play in the side.

  • Sarthak on January 13, 2013, 17:27 GMT

    @ EnglishCricket Can England field even an ordinary team on their own? :))

  • Ashok on January 13, 2013, 17:18 GMT

    The Indian culture tries to please the majority even at the risk of sacrificing the job integrity. I am sure all Selectors are instructed to choose the best XI + some reserves to fall back. If there are more than one person competing for the same position & also if the pitch conditions are likely to change, 4 reserves may be partly justified. But on flat Indian wkts. it is not likely to see any changes in the pitch conditions. Only justification then boils down to injuries during pre-match training sessions. But when you are making star candidates like Rohit, Pujara, Tiwary, Rahane sit on the bench, it is not acceptable. Either you get these guys in XI or do not select them in 15. Dhoni's captaincy is such, he pre-selects his XI not only for one match but for the whole series. He is "Tunnel visioned" guy who cannot think outside the box.The Selectors must understand this. They chose Pujara to replace Sehwag - instead Dhoni dropped him form XI,much to chagrin of Pujara. What a Captain?