The perils of trying out options before the World Cup

Rishav Narang Roar Rookie

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    The 2019 World Cup is still two years away and before that, as per the Indian captain Virat Kohli, the team is keen to keep each and every option open.

    As per the plan, the captain will recognise a pool of 20-25 players so as to choose from them before going into the tournament. An unpredictable factor will also get attached to the team when following the same route, as per the captain.

    The idea behind this is simple – to give each and every player his chance and then chose the best available option. But is it the way the Indian cricket has been so far? Seems no.

    In the Champions Trophy – where the Indian team went in as defending champions – there were no surprises at all. The selectors opted for the safest approach with no propensity to take the risk.

    Someone like Dinesh Karthik, who had scored over 600 runs in Vijay Hazare Trophy games, cleared the test to be there in the Indian team but he was not considered for a place in the original squad. An injury to Manish Pandey forced selectors to recall Karthik.

    India, unlike many other teams, never ever looks for something out of the box for ICC events. Pakistan opted for a new option in the ICC Champions Trophy and Fakhar Zaman, who made his ODI debut in the same tournament, went to make his maiden century in the final, which ultimately resulted in Pakistan wresting the cup from the Virat Kohli-led team.

    Virat Kohli runs after hitting a drive

    (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

    At present, when gazing at the different team sheets which are playing domestic cricket in India, it is safe to say that the skipper has so many options to choose from but is having options as key to success?

    In fact, the more number of options, the more insecure a member of a team is.

    Starting from Mohammed Shami, India’s prime bowler in Test cricket. Injury though have marred his short international career until now but is it not surprising when a bowler like him warms the bench during ICC Champions Trophy?

    It was finally after a hiatus of two years when Shami played an ODI when he stepped on the field against Windies at North Sound. He was rested for limited overs series against Sri Lanka, which raised few doubts. Is he so fragile that he needs rest after every series so as to make a comeback after a period of few months?

    Just like England, the Indian team management should also decide the role of bowlers. James Anderson and Stuart Broad, England’s star bowlers now only play red ball cricket and if one of them even tries to make a comeback in limited over the team, they are not allowed to do so. They know their limitations and focus on the job in hand.

    Having oodles of options has resulted in dropping of R Ashwin from Indian team as well. Post-2015 World Cup, he has never been able to fix his place in ODI team and has also got dropped on many occasions, even during ICC Champions Trophy.

    He also got dropped for the limited overs series against Sri Lanka but he thinks he was being rested. Ashwin is currently playing county cricket in England and surely, playing any form of cricket in any part of the world is no form of rest. Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, and Axar Patel were the three spinners for India in limited over series against Sri Lanka.

    Kuldeep played just one Test out of three Tests, only after ICC banned Jadeja for one game. He only got a chance one ODI and one T20I, which again drew limelight. Reports had suggested that he was the bowler Kumble wanted to play in the Ranchi Test against Australia but Kohli did not agree and ironically, the first match that Indian team played after Kumble’s exit, Kuldeep made his ODI debut.

    He went onto play the full series against Windies and when it was a chance to give him a longer shot, he was benched.

    Rishab Pant has done well enough in domestic cricket to be there in the Indian cricket team. In first-class cricket, where players take their time, he scored 972 runs at a strike rate of 107.28 in Ranji Trophy. Instead of boon, it came as a bane for him as his aggressive showing in the first-class tournament forced selectors to tag him as an aggressive cricketer.

    He was given a chance in the top squad for the practice games against Bangladesh and Australia, but not as a wicketkeeper. Even during the India A tour of South Africa, he found a favour in only one ODI team and not the Test side.

    He did not play even a single ODI against Windies during the series and played just one T20I.

    A special case of Ajinkya Rahane is worth mentioning. The highest run-scorer in the Windies series did not find favour for series against Sri Lanka and he was benched for first four ODIs. It was only after Shikhar Dhawan flew back home that Rahane walked in the playing XI. At present, the biggest challenge for Kohli is to manage these 15 players in the team, which is a confusing puzzle to solve for him.

    Having a big bunch of players to choose from is not a bad idea but tinkering with the squad unnecessarily is. MS Dhoni was the best in the business. He was able to prevent himself from all this. He used to stick to his best players and he only dropped them when they were totally rusted. Though there is a difference being rigid and taking a stand. Sometimes he was rigid and the team paid price for it.

    It’s a new era, the Kohli-Shastri era and no sort of intrusion or clash of ideas are inevitable, which was the case during Kumble’s stint as coach and all are well versed of the series of events that took place.

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