India started the year knowing they had three big overseas tours ahead of them, but it took until the third tour to finally pick the right team.
When India’s first Test team was announced to play South Africa in January of this year, the most notable omission was Ajinkya Rahane. Admittedly his form leading into the series was poor, but on the flip side his overseas form had always been impressive and the team’s vice-captain had been a staple in the Indian batting line up for many years.
History shows India lost the match and ultimately the series. Although it would be farfetched to say this was the reason they lost, it wouldn’t be farfetched to say that Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri erred in their decision not to pick him.
Fast forward ahead to the first Test in England. Another quality and trustworthy Indian top order batsman, another staple of the batting line-up, Cheteshwar Pujara, was omitted. Once again India went on to lose a tight Test match. Once again, to suggest this was the reason they lost would not be right, but Kohli and Shastri had not learnt their lessons from South Africa.
A fundamental rule when picking a team overseas is to pick your quality tried and tested batsmen, but both times the leaders went with their instincts and both times they got it wrong.
By Adelaide there were no basic errors from the Indians. They picked six batsmen, a keeper and four bowlers. A traditional team. This was something they also almost refused to do in South Africa and England.
Their constant decision of batting their keeper at six simply didn’t work, not once. However, they simply refused to change their plan. Whether it was Wriddhiman Saha, Parthiv Patel or Dinesh Karthik, they all failed to bat at No.6, and they didn’t stop and change it.
By the time Rishabh Pant made a century – low and behold, batting at No.7 – in the fifth Test at The Oval, both series were done and dusted.
Too many basic errors.
The Indian selection panel of Shastri and Kohli had struck out twice, but by picking two of their experienced batsmen in Pujara and Rahane, both of whom have delivered, and getting the balance right for this Test, they looked to have hit Adelaide for six.