This is no game of musical chairs. What is happening within the Indian camp in England with regard to replacements for injured players, reflects utter confusion, lack of strategy and a clear gameplan.
Injuries are only to be expected during a long campaign and therefore three players finding themselves in the cold is no big deal. The trick was to ensure the selectors in consultation with the team management had a ready Plan B and Plan C, in place. The problem is they did not.
KL Rahul was picked up as the reserve opener but with the team management having little faith in the original number 4 bat Vijay Shankar, the team had its cricketing version of the Cauvery dispute. The Bengaluru boy and not the Tamil Nadu all-rounder was asked to make the latter position his own. Rahul was just about settling into that role when Shikhar Dhawan got injured. Rahul was pushed to the opener’s slot, which was part of the original plan and brought Shankar in.
So far, reasonably okay. But look at it from Shankar’s point of view. The message to him was that even though he was the original choice for number 4, he was not up there in Virat Kohli’s eyes. Two, now that he had been selected, he better performed. He did by taking a wicket with his first delivery in the World Cup.
But when it came to the batting, Hardik Pandya was sent ahead of him which was a fair call as the situation demanded it. But the pressure on Shankar only increased and his performance overall was nothing to write home about. He was ready to be guillotined.
With Shankar’s reported toe injury, Rishabh Pant who enjoys a fair amount of support in the media and the team, got a foot in the door. A batsman not even part of the original 15 got to play ahead of Dinesh Karthik, a proven performer. But look at Pant at the crease against England, completely at sea. The gamechanger did nothing to change India’s game.
The fun continues. When the number 4 bat (Vijay Shankar) gets injured, the selectors do not choose Ambati Rayudu who was ignored in favour of Shankar with chief selector MSK Prasad describing the latter as “three dimensional”. They choose an opening batsman Mayank Agarwal, who was nowhere on the radar when the team was originally selected. Pray what is the logic?
This means the team management no longer has faith in its regular opener Rahul but may find him good enough to play at number 4, which is not his position of comfort. And Rayudu will wonder, what was his fault when he was supposed to be India’s number 4 bat.
Did it have anything to do with his wisecrack on Twitter reacting to his exclusion, aimed at MSK Prasad?
Jadhav is another perplexing selection. He gets into the team despite not being used as a bowler. His lack of intent has showed up in two matches now and has proved to be extra baggage. In what way is he a better middle order bat than Ravinder Jadeja, only Ravi Shastri and the thinktank knows.
Dhoni continues to confuse his critics. He is in the Sunil Gavaskar `36′ frame of mind for the better part of his innings and has hardly looked the MSD of old. Why shouldn’t the team play Dinesh Karthik in the game against Bangladesh. In any case, DK should come in place of Pant or Jadhav for the Tuesday clash. After the Nidahas Trophy final which DK won for India with a last ball six in March last year, the wicketkeeper-bat should definitely be part of the line-up.
Being flexible and dynamic with team selection is one thing. But there has to be a clear thinking with defined roles for each member of the team. The fact that this selection committee and the team management does not, is showing up. This could cost India dear.