India pretty much shot itself in the foot when they decided to pick just one specialist opener for the tour. But Karthik had proved himself more than capable against a much superior SA attack and the selectors probably thought Why not try him in Bangladesh as well?. One could argue that this is such a short sighted move and couldn’t work in say tours to England or Australia and that would be a valid argument.
But taking the Bangladesh tour alone into consideration, it could probably work well. The question here is – Aren’t people like Yuvraj, Sehwag and Laxman better players than Karthik? Maybe they are, but Sehwag has been dropped from the test side and I haven’t seen Laxman or Yuvraj put their hands up to open the innings. The only other alternative would have been to open the innings with Dravid and Jaffar. Dravid has expressed his reluctance to open the innings in the past and he probably used the captain’s prerogative to opt out.
(At the time of writing this report, Jaffar had gone out to a 1st ball duck and Dravid has come out to face the 2nd ball of the innings. IMHO – Dravid would actually make an excellent opener in tests, but his reluctance is something of a surprise to me)
The biggest surprise is the dropping of Laxman to accommodate another bowler. There is going to be a lot of debate on whether this is the right move or not. He has performed better than players like Tendulkar in the last 10 games, but his performance has still not been top class. His fitness and fielding also doesn’t work in his favour. In these hot and humid conditions, Dravid probably saw merit in choosing Saurav and Sachin over Laxman, as they can offer some relief to the bowlers by bowling a few overs.
Dhoni was the man of the series in the recently concluded ODI series and is the keeper of choice for the Indian team, although Karthik has been offering stiff competition. With Karthik opening the innings, the team management probably thought that performing a dual role of Keeper/Opener in these conditions wasn’t such a good idea – and I agree.
A lot has been written on why we need 5 bowlers in this match. I have felt in the past that India has never benefited with this move and I am not sure they will in this match either. OK – the hot and humid conditions probably warrants 5 bowlers, but the judgement of picking 3 fast bowlers baffles me. They would have been better in picking 3 spinners and 2 fast bowlers if they wanted a 5 bowler attack. If pre-match reports of the pitch is to be believed, it is going to be slow and the bounce low.
It remains to be seen whether the selection moves were actually good or bad. But an easy win will mask any mistakes made…