The strongest available team should represent the country in an international match but at times other considerations would seem more important. Like looking into the future, perhaps. Under the circumstances, the decision of the selectors to rest Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad from the remaining three one day games against New Zealand is to be welcomed.
India has a long and arduous tour of Australia coming up. Given the strength of the Australian batting and the record of our own bowling abroad, it is obvious that Srinath and Prasad will have a lot of work to do. The two have done a capital job ever since they were in harness together for the first time on the tour of England in 1996. Kumble and Srinath have been the main strike bowlers of the decade but Prasad has not been far behind. He has been a willing work horse and as he showed in the first Test against Pakistan at Chennai in January this year, he is capable of striking a purple patch. His bag of 6 for 33 included a spell of five wickets for zero runs.
In Australia, Kumble's fangs are likely to be cut and with the rest of the bowling hardly inspiring any confidence, Srinath and Prasad may not only have to be main wicket takers but may also have to do a lot of stock bowling. Under the circumstances, a well earned rest will do the two 30-year-olds much more good instead of bowling in three one day internationals against New Zealand.
The move is to be doubly welcomed for it also gives a timely break to Agarkar and Kumaran. Both are in the Australian bound squad and it is a good idea to let them a bowl against New Zealand before they embark on a tougher assignment. Both have things to prove. Agarkar has had a fairly long lay off. He did not have a very fruitful World Cup campaign, then he was nursing an injury and has just submitted his fitness report to the Cricket Control Board. He will be happy to have a work out before he goes to Australia.
For Kumaran too the opportunity to play in three one day internationals against New Zealand comes at the right time. He was the surprise choice in the 16 member team for Australia and his detractors said that one good performance in the Irani Trophy was not enough for him to get an India cap. It is now up to Kumaran to show that he is in the team on merit and that the ten wicket haul against Karnataka at Bangalore was not a flash in the pan.