Squad for Bangladesh: Where did the Indian selectors go wrong?
Was Harbhajan’s IPL glory was enough to give him a ticket to test matches?
“Harbhajan recalled, Indian selectors decide to retain the full strength squad for Bangladesh tour”.
The notification that popped up on the smartphone screen was too startling to believe, especially after days of speculations across social media channels. Some new faces could have been tried out. Some tired legs could have been rested. Some veterans could have been given a long-due farewell. But, none of these happened.
The selectors, in an effort to look professional, missed a big opportunity. In order to not risk complacency, they got overcautious. The mistake didn’t end there. All of the Ranji performances were ignored and instead Harbhajan’s comeback was adjudged on the grounds of a spark of brilliance in IPL. Certainly, the Sandeep Patil led wise men picked a team that reeked strongly of myopia.
From some years, India’s tour of Bangladesh has been scheduled immediately after a World Cup campaign. The Indian selectors have used these tours as a way to try out some fresh faces and also to give a well deserved break to few seasoned campaigners. In 2003 tour, India rested its World Cup stars- Sachin Tendulkar, Javagal Srinath, Rahul Dravid and Ashish Nehra. This meant an opportunity for Gautam Gambhir, Abhijit Kale, and Aavishkar Salvi to prove their mettle by getting a consistent run.
Four years later, the Bangladesh tour had followed a disastrous World Cup run, which implied that more people were dropped than rested. The axe fell on the regular faces-Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan, and Ajit Agarkar. Moreover, Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly were rested in ODIs, which had brought Manoj Tiwary and Piyush Chawla into the squad, while Ravi Shastri walked in as the interim coach after the controversial Greg Chappell resigned. It always felt more logical to not send the full strength squad in these tours, not conveying a message to demean the opposition but to introspect the strength of fringe players.
Is BCCI selecting players based on their IPL performances?
In 2015, the cricket calendars have got more jam-packed compared to 2003 or 2007. The game has become more demanding for an international cricketer who juggles big international tours, long home series, T20 leagues, countless ad shoots and occasional events. In these times, India’s Bangladesh tour has been scheduled by BCCI juxtaposed to an immensely long season of international series, World Cup, and IPL.
If we talk of only international cricket, India has played 30 ODIs and 9 Test matches including tours of Australia and England since June 2014. With all these high-intensity matches in the recent background, it made more sense to give some players a break. Players like Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, and Shikhar Dhawan have appeared almost in all matches throughout the season.
Further, Harbhajan Singh’s comeback raises the question about the scale used to measure performances. The veteran off-spinner had a poor Ranji season with a best performance of 3 wickets in an innings.The most sacred domestic championship in Indian cricket serves as a good platform to weigh the potential of an individual in the Test arena. Why then Harbhajan’s IPL glory was enough to give him a ticket to test matches? What message does it send to someone like Shardul Thakur or Rishi Dhawan, who worked their way up to the wickets tally this season? What message does it send to Robin Uthappa, the leading Ranji run-getter this season? If IPL is an important platform for the selectors, then why is Shreyas Iyer not considered? The selection of Harbhajan Singh is a short-sighted and logic-defying one.
In the coming months, India is set to tour Zimbabwe, host South Africa and maybe Pakistan before the big T20 World Cup at home. If the same pool of players are dragged throughout, they might still bring the best results-perhaps bag in consecutive whitewashes at home and even shatter some records. But it certainly will be a short-lived glory. In case injuries get the better of someone, the lack of groomed bench strength might hurt in crucial tournaments.The selectors have missed a big point here, but they might cite the bottom line to defend their decisions. And everything will seem normal until the surface gets scratched.
(The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sportskeeda)