By Denzil Fernandes
Daijiworld Media Network
Kolkatta, Dec 3: The selection committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) may consist of players who have performed well for India in the past. The committee is headed by Mumbai’s top Test player Sandip Patil while yet another member Roger Binny too had figured prominently for Team India. However, when the Indian cricket team for the third Test in Kolkata was selected they seemed to have developed cold feet and went into the safety mode by retaining the same side which had done duty in the first two Tests.
Generally, when a team loses, the selectors with an eye on improving the team morale try and change a couple of players. India was battered by England in the second Test and there was every reason to believe that some of the players would be axed. But Patil and his team did not want to risk anything and safely retained the same set of players.
There were several questions raised on retaining spinner Harbhajan Singh who now is a thing of the past. One saw him bowling aimlessly in the Mumbai test and even as a fielder he was a total misfit. Although he is not a reliabale batsman, one saw him getting out without wasting time in the second innings in the Mumbai Test. He was supposed to stay with not out batsman Gambhir and prolong the innings but had other ideas. He has, no doubt, served India well in the past but surely it is time for him to make way for other spinners like Piyush Chawla and Amit Mishra. However, the selectors did not think of the future.
Likewise, the openers have not risen to the occasion and have failed to make the required runs. Both Sehwag and Gambhir have good past credentials but in the ongoing series they are yet to hit top gear. One can easily say that the entire team banks on these two players to post a huge total.
Known as the ‘God of cricket’ by his ocean of followers, Sachin Tendulkar is turning out to be a ‘non performer’ as far as the Indian team is concerned. In the last 10 innings, Sachin has hit rock bottom and the average is a miserable 15.3 runs only. The selectors are a gutless lot and will not touch Sachin even if he does not score for the next two years perhaps ! But, then, Sachin has to realize that he is on the wrong side of his youth and should quickly call it a day before he is dumped out from the team. He has everything to gain if he leaves the game gracefully sooner than later. Youngsters like Manoj Tiwary, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Raina and many others are all waiting to fill the breach when Sachin leaves. It is not going to be easy for Sachin to survive for long. One appreciated his contribution to Indian cricket but there comes a time when one has to go. No one is permanent in any team. Like Sachin, former Australia captain Ricky Ponting too was fighting for survival in their series against South Africa. Ponting was quick to realize this and has announced his retirement from Test cricket as soon as the Perth Test ends. Ponting was also a terrific batsman in the same class as Tendulkar. Ponting’s retirement should give a hint to Tendulkar. But, then, when ? is the question.
Our pace bowlers have not shown any kind of firepower and it is every one’s guess that Zaheer Khan is also playing one of his last series for India. Young Umesh Yadav has been the only one to impress but due to heavy workload finds discarded due to injury. Dashing Dinda has now a great chance to fill the slot especially in his own Kolkata premises and show that he is a good prospect. Other quickies also need to be looked at instead of persisting with unfit horses.
Poojara has taken Dravid’s place in a fine way and shown good temperament in both the Tests played so far. Laxman’s place is up for grabs and Yuvraj still needs to do a lot to seal that berth. Manoj Tiwari is unsure of his future in Indian cricket with the selectors simply not interested in trying new blood. One thought that chairman of selectors Sandip Patil would show some aggression in his policies just like the way he used to bat while at the crease during his younger days. But, unfortunately, Patil with Binny look like taking it easy and enjohying their lucrative term in office ! At least young Tiwary should have been picked for the third Test to play in front of his home crowd in Kolkata in place of Yuvraj.
Although India won convincingly in Ahmedabad, it was very clear in Mumbai that England would hit back. Bringing spinner Monty Panesar as a wicket taker, they paid back in the same coin which the Indians could not. India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (MSD) harked on a spinner friendly pitch and was made to eat humble pie when his batsmen fell like nine pins. Indian spinners Ashwin and Ojha could not match Panesar and Swann’s performance and what followed was an astonishing defeat for India in the second Test in Mumbai.
Even in Kolkata in the third Test which starts on Dec.5, England will have the upperhand without doubt. Captain Alastair Cook has shone with his bat and done little talking unlike India’s MSD who wants to take advantage of home conditions. What that means, one does not know at all. As an international team, India should be able to handle any kind of conditions wherever they play. They fell for blistering pace last time when they toured England and now have fallen for quality spin in their own backyard. What is MSD expecting the curator to do one does not know !
The Kolkata pitch will be a different kettle of fish. There will be both bounce and spin and the visitors will surely love the entire atmosphere which will be complete with the ocean of supporters. It will not be easy at all for Team India to excel unless their batsmen put their heads down and record a mammoth total. Sachin Tendulkar has to come good along with his colleagues and then only India can heave a sigh of relief. Cook and Pietersen are in red hot form and not in a mood to relax. Swann and Panesar too want to continue their winning ways. A real tough battle for India with both sides having won one Test each. Doctoring pitches to suit their home players seems to be the new theory.
Skipper Dhoni has been begging for spinner friendly pitches and has been irritating the curator in Kolkata to prepare a pitch that will help his bowlers. But what is the guarantee that his bowlers will dismiss the England batsmen ?? What happened in the Mumbai Test ??
These are days for tough decisions as far as the Indian selectors are concerned. There is no place for sentiments and personal relations when a team selection is made. There is also no place for regionalism and past achievements when any side is picked. The need of the hour is to look at current form and conditions before a winning side is picked. Skipper MSD and the selectors have to ensure that the best eleven do duty for Team India as they get ready to tackle England who look determined to stun the Indians once again. There are so many available but if the selectors do not want to pick the youngsters then we can expect a hammering from the England side.
Team India for the third Test in Kolkata: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, M Vijay, Zaheer Khan.