Monday, December 10, 2012

Not many changes in squad for Nagpur Test - Indian approach in Selection


The last 18 months have been tortuous and agonizing for Indian cricket fan ~ from moments of glory, it has been constant failure.  There are times when wrong words are spoken at inopportune moments.  Only recently on eheard India's bowling coach Joe Dawes stating that the group is on right track and that he is hopeful of building a "big pool to choose from" in the future. Dawes also said Zaheer Khan has the "best wrist in cricket" and was among the top six bowlers in international cricket. The BCCI appointed Dawes, who is from Queensland, as bowling coach in February, during India's 0-4 Test defeat in Australia.

Months before him came the coach – Duncan Fletcher who has done precious little.  His major strength was knowing England and in England, Indians played rather poorly.  This Series was touted to be sort of revenge series. So much was spoken about England’s weakness against spin and performance on tour.   It all started well at Motera in the first day with Virender Sehwag and later Pujara making centuries ~ India won that test too but much water has flown since… Indians have lost 2 tests at home, one at the favourite venue of Eden Gardens and some hoped that for all the washing, some heads including that of the Captain would roll……….  

The Indian spinners have had a dismal performance so also their batsmen.  Umesh Yadav the best fast bowler on show in Ahmedabad, bowling quick and getting the old ball to swing,  has been declared unfit and there is a list of players Varun Aaron, Sreesanth, Praveen Kumar – all nursing injuries.  Ishant Sharma did little of note and Zaheer continues to be ineffective.   MS Dhoni  was reported as stating that  he won't run away from the responsibility.  Bishan Singh Bedi, the outspoken spinner who was ousted after the 1978 Pak tour is quoted as stating  "I think M.S. Dhoni has been lucky as a captain; Indian captains do not normally survive this long while losing. I think the Indians are paying for their lack of preparation and an obsession with avenging the 4-0 whitewash in England last year."  Dhoni is quoted as further stating "He [Fletcher] has got excellent technical knowledge about our batting,"  "He guides us in the right direction.

For the record, India have been knocked out of two ODI tournaments this year, they have lost to Bangladesh, and were disappointing in World Twenty20 too. In Tests, since  July 11, their performance have touched the nadir _ 0-4 white wash at England; 2-0 win against West Indies at home;  0-4 drowning at Australia and 2-0 against New Zealand at home; and the present 1-2 loss in the present series.  The Test record under Fletcher is 10 defeats now….   

Result
Margin
Team
Place
Date
lost
196 runs
England
Lord's
Jul-11
lost
319 runs
England
Nottingham
Jul-11
lost
inns & 242 runs
England
Birmingham
Aug-11
lost
inns & 8 runs
England
The Oval
Aug-11
won
5 wickets
West Indies
Delhi
Nov-11
won
inns & 15 runs
West Indies
Kolkata
Nov-11
draw
-
West Indies
Mumbai
Nov-11
lost
122 runs
Australia
Melbourne
Dec-11
lost
inns & 68 runs
Australia
Sydney
Jan-12
lost
inns & 37 runs
Australia
Perth
Jan-12
lost
298 runs
Australia
Adelaide
Jan-12
won
inns & 115 runs
New Zealand
Hyderabad
Aug-12
won
5 wickets
New Zealand
Bangalore
Aug-12
won
9 wickets
England
Ahmedabad
Nov-12
lost
10 wickets
England
Mumbai
Nov-12
lost
7 wickets
England
Kolkata
Dec-12

On the last day, it took England 55 minutes of intense drama but  England achieved victory without major damage.  Not all knew or cared to notice that Ashwin was bowling his hat-trick ball, when he opened and bowled to Alastair Cook.  In trying to finish the match in haste,  Cook tried to loft Ashwin over long-off and was stumped only for the second time in his career.  Ojha got Trott and  Kevin Pietersen soon edged Ashwin to MS Dhoni, still there was nothing to speak about for the Indian fan.  

Now for the next at Nagpur, one expected some sweeping changes ~ change the Captain, drop all the batsmen who have not delivered; a new look side is not going to harm any interest when there is none.  A new team cannot be any worse, one thought.  The euphemism of ‘talking to Sachin and allowing to time his retirement continues ~ he is there’ so also the rest of others.  India have dropped Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh andHarbhajan Singh for the Nagpur Test. Delhi fast bowler Parvinder Awana and Saurashtra allrounderRavindra Jadeja have received their first call-ups, and legspinner Piyush Chawla replaced Harbhajan.  Reputed to be brisk, Awana has taken 21 Ranji wickets at an average of 21.57 this season. Jadeja, recently scored his third first-class triple-century in 13 months.

Squad for Nagpur Test: MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Cheteshwar Pujara, R Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Piyush Chawla, Ishant Sharma, M Vijay, Parvinder Awana.

Squad for T20Is: MS Dhoni (capt &wk), Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Manoj Tiwary, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Piyush Chawla, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Laxmipathy Balaji, Parvinder Awana

But -  there could be little or almost no change in the final XI if you look at the composition.  In the squad of 15 – Awana, Murali Vijay, Chawla and perhaps Jadeja might sit out – which would mean the same opening pair of Gambhir and Sehwag; followed by Pujara, Sachin, Kohli,(Rahane or Jadeja) Dhoni & 4 bowlers – Ashwin, Ojha, Ishant and Dinda.  In effect only 2 changes !!!!! – after such dismal performance. 

India's defeat is their 11th in home Tests since 2000 and their third loss against England at home in the same period. And you cannot expect different results continuing with the same kind of approach.   It is not failure of  Dhoni alone, but that of batsman as well ~ other than PUjara and to a limited extent Virender Sehwag, none of them deserve to be in the team.  But India simply is not caring to take action.  As usual, silence is the BCCI’s response of choice to uncomfortable questions. When India lost in England, the defeat was dismissed as an aberration. In  Australia it was much worse. There were calls for an inquiry. That didn’t happen as Indians are not keen in getting to the truth.  

Before the tour, England spent time in Dubai trying to work on their weakness against spin and also trying to acclimatise. The majority of the Indian players, however, decided that spending some time in South Africa and playing the Champions League made more sense.  Remember Don Argus and the way Australians handled failure.  Argus report though uncomfortable to many, nailed the problems within Australian cricket, when after  Ashes series  Australia plunged to a lowly fifth in the world Test rankings.  Reportedly a formidable group interviewed 61 cricket-orientated personnel ranging from players, coaches, and interested parties, to the media ~ in the result : Three national selectors – Andrew Hilditch, Greg Chappell, and Jamie Cox were all  gone,  and along them went the coach Tim Nielsen. Will India ever have an Argus and will ever the Board listen to such findings !!  ~  Donald Robert Argus was no cricketer, but a business magnet and a banker.  

The 4th and final Test begins at Nagpur on Dec 13th  and the Indian fan as usual will be at the venue lining up to buy tickets and sitting before the TV to watch with bated breath another performance of India………

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
10th Dec 2012.

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