Injuries - A blessing in disguise for the Indian cricket team
With the next Test series is a good two months away, most of the injured players will be fully fit and ready for selection.
The Indian team is still basking in the glory of defeating the touring English side comprehensively with a scoreline of 4-0 in the five-match Test series. The disadvantage of having such a long series and that too within a short span of around 40 days is that it takes a toll on the bodies of the players. This series too has been no exception as the Indian team has been marred with injuries, and the Indian team management and the captain have had a tough time to finalise the playing eleven.
One of the key areas of India’s success in the near-perfect series has been the bench strength coming to fore and delivering against the odds. From makeshift openers to last minute inclusions, the Indian team management have had to go through every possible test on and off the field.
Injuries have always been a part of modern day cricket, where more often than not, the schedules are quite tight. In such a demanding scenario, it is practically impossible to balance the workload and shield oneself from getting injured. The Indian team has had 7 different opening combinations in its last 22 Tests, wherein on most occasions, it was a forceful change due to an injury.
Such has been the plight of the Indian team that there have been as many as 49 changes in the last 22 Tests from among a pool of 23 players that Virat Kohli has captained. Although there is no denying the fact that not all were forced changes and most of them were due to an injury.
The standout thing has been that India has remained undefeated in the last 18 Tests it has played. The old adage - “One must never tinker with the winning combination” is something that the Indians don’t have in their think-tanks, thanks to the long injury list they have had in the recent past.
Having said that, there must have been something that has made all this possible. The credit for Indian team’s dream run goes to the exceptional talent pool that it boasts of. But, nearly all top Test playing teams have a great bench strength, but what stood out for the Indians is the fact that whenever a player was given a chance to play, he has grabbed that opportunity with both hands and outperformed others.
Players who grabbed their opportunity with both hands
The likes of Jayant Yadav, Karun Nair, Parthiv Patel, Ishant Sharma and Lokesh Rahul have all justified their selection and made significant contributions in some way or the other. They have scored important runs for the team with the lower order, got crucial wickets at key moments in the match, effected a spectacular stumping, took a stunning catch or played some high-quality counter-attacking cricket.
These contributions have been the backbone of India’s astounding dominance in the home series.
Not undermining any of those performances, Karun Nair’s triple ton deserves a special mention. Players like Manish Pandey and Rishabh Pant, who didn’t get a chance in the recently concluded series, have been scoring heavily in the domestic circuit and it is not very far when they too will have to be drafted into the national team.
The unlucky ones
The breaks that these players have got are an outcome of some unfortunate injuries that have come in the way of the high performing Indian stars. Players like Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Mohammad Shami and Wriddhiman Saha have been ruled out of the matches with injuries, who once get fit will put up a strong case for selection.
Although many might argue that Ajinkya Rahane hasn’t had a great run in the recent series and must be dropped, but in reality, he is unarguably the next best batsman that the Indian team has right now after Virat Kohli.
Rohit Sharma, on the other hand, had a couple of good innings against the Kiwis just before getting injured in the home series and if cricket pundits like Harsha Bhogle and Ravi Shastri are to be believed, he is getting into the groove of Test match cricket and is ready to perform at the highest level in the longest format of the game. Mohammad Shami has been the frontline bowler for India in the recent past and hasn’t disappointed one bit with his invariable accuracy, great pace and perfect seam position.
He has been quite instrumental in getting wickets with the new ball, a rarity for most of the Indian fast bowlers in the past. Wriddhiman Saha, with his prowess behind the wickets, has proved time and again that he is in fact the best wicket-keeping prospect in the country at present.
With the next test series, against Bangladesh and Australia, scheduled after a gap of nearly two months from now, most of the players from the injury list will recover fully and will be ready for selection. What lies ahead is some sweet headache for the Indian team coach Anil Kumble and captain Virat Kohli to come up with the best possible squad from among the available pool of players.
It won’t be easy for them to draft a 15-16 member squad and an even more difficult task to churn out the playing eleven from them. There would be some jostling to be done amongst the many India hopefuls.
In spite of the dilemma, a silver lining for the Indian selectors is that each of the players in the current pool is ready to make way for another individual based on the opponent and playing conditions. All of them know their roles and are hungry to perform whenever given a chance.
Virat Kohli is also not a captain who likes sticking to the same XI and the same is vindicated by the fact that he hasn’t had the same playing XI in even a single game of all the 22 Tests that he has captained.
Whatever the outcome of the team selection, one thing which is certain is that if the current pool of players keep performing the way it is doing right now, it is not too far when winning Tests regularly outside the subcontinent will also turn into a reality.