Team composition - The current million-dollar question in Indian cricket
If you would need to look at only one debate in cricketing circles which has people across the board divided on their opinion, you need not look far beyond the debate regarding Indian team's composition.
Even the great teams of yesteryear, the all-conquering West Indians of the 80s or the Australian team of the 90s and early 2000s, which on paper looked so good that you felt they just had to take the field to win.
They were also great teams not only because it had great players, but also because they were extremely good at getting their team composition spot on. It took a Lloyd to get the West Indian team to have an all-pace attack (unheard of prior) which was one of the key elements to the dominance of the West Indian team of the 80s.
This leads us to the question of the composition of the current Indian team in which they lost the Test series against England 4-1. Apart from the second Test at Lord’s where India was totally outplayed, the other Tests were relatively close. One of the key elements of the losses were the composition of the team, which left a lot to be desired. While India played with five bowlers on bowler friendly wickets in the first four tests, they played an extra batsman which meant only four bowlers in the best batting wicket of the series i.e at the Oval.
Kohli’s insistence of playing five bowlers backfired with the fifth bowler not being used much. While five bowlers or four bowlers with a bowling all-rounder might be a good option on the less bowler-friendly surfaces, the fifth bowler (or one of the bowlers) is more often underused on livelier surfaces.
The team's think-tank should assess the conditions much better and accordingly pick the playing XI. Throughout the series, there were few debatable decisions like playing two spinners on a green Lord's track while only one at Southampton in which the home side played with a couple in Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid.
Nature of the 22 yards coupled with the weather in England and South Africa are generally helpful to the bowlers and hence with the current Indian setup, it would be worthwhile to have a four-bowler attack with extra batsmen to give the much-needed buffer on bowling friendly surfaces.
It makes even more sense currently as India have one of the best bowling attacks in the world at the moment and it has been the batsmen that have let the team down both in South Africa and England.
It would be good for the team management to rethink this crucial aspect of team selection which might go a long way in winning matches overseas as opposed to having competed and run the opponent close.
There might be others who will argue that the chopping and changing of the team is the most important reason for the failures or the inability to cross the finish line, but that is a topic for another day.
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