Three days into the first test match of the India – New Zealand series, the 500th Test Match for India, many people are having the same thought, did the Indian think-tank get the team selection right? Was going in with 7 batsmen a prudent choice?
Ever since Virat Kohli took over the reins from MS Dhoni, he has been talking an aggressive game, indicating time and again that he would not hesitate to go in with a five-bowler strategy if the conditions demanded it.
But Team India has gone into the historic test match being played at Kanpur against the Kiwis, with only four specialist bowlers. As was the case in the rain-washed fourth test against the Windies. You ask yourself why Virat, an aggressive captain by nature, would go in with what one would call a safe approach.
Is it because they are trying to find a way to fit in both Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma in the playing XI? You might wonder.There is no question, on the back of the performances in the Duleep Trophy, that Cheteshwar Pujara deserves a spot in the middle order. And it is commendable, the confidence the team management is showing in the talented but inconsistent Sharma.
But is that confidence doing more harm than good for Team India? On the first day’s play at Kanpur, Sharma, once again, got himself in and carelessly threw his wicket away with his team in a precarious position.
What has gone wrong for Rohit Sharma?
Rohit Sharma, no doubt, is a batsman with immense class and talent. He has proved his batting prowess in the shorter formats of the game time and again. He arrived on the test scene with a wonderful series at home against the West Indies.
He left his mark on what came to be known as the Sachin Tendulkar farewell series, which is no small feat.
But ever since then, he has struggled to cement his place in the test line-up. He has been played at all positions across the middle order by the management, but he continues to under-perform. Each time he has managed to get himself in, he tends to play a rash shot and get himself out.
It’s his natural instinct, his natural game, he likes to attack the bowlers, likes to take the game to them. And it is the main reason why he continues to be backed by the management.
Virat and the team management believe he has the ability to take the game away from the opposition in a single session and anyone who has seen Rohit bat can completely relate to that line of thought. But do you go as far as hurting the team balance to back one player?
A player who has seen to be highly inconsistent in the longest version of the game? No.
Pujara stakes a claim for his inclusion
One might argue that Pujara does not merit his place in the line-up based on past performances. But how do you ignore a player who has an impeccable record at home, who is known best for playing the long, waiting game. He has a knack of going big each time he gets in.
Yes, he has struggled a little in the past series, but he more than made his case for selection with his big-daddy hundreds in the Duleep Trophy semi-finals and the finals for India Blue.
It should be taken into note that Sharma played the final and made scores of 30 and 32 in the two innings. And the rest of the batting line-up picks itself.
An extra batsman in the playing XI justified?
Kohli, in his short tenure as captain, has spoken of playing horses for courses. But many will not see how this team selection falls in line with that policy. If you look at the current line-up, there are no real part-time options for the captain to fall back onto, if a frontline bowler has a bad day or gets injured.
Team India will only be left with three bowlers. With the heat and humidity, one might also argue that fatigue might play a factor, which makes the case for another bowler to have been played even stronger.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Wriddhiman Saha are coming on the back of a great tour with the bat in the Caribbean. Ravindra Jadeja has three triple centuries in first-class cricket, and Amit Mishra has proven himself quite handy with the bat down the order time and again with some useful knocks.
Considering all these facts, one ponders if there was any need to play an extra batsman.
Given the conditions and the evidence on Day 1 and the post-lunch session on Day 2, there is plenty on offer for the spinners and suggestions that Amit Mishra should’ve been picked ahead of Rohit will keep doing rounds in the coming days.
It is a nice thing, to see the team backing a player to the hilt, but at what cost? Seems like the team management has some thinking to do, come the second test.