Team India Selection: Lack of Balance and Coach…


Barring a few raised-eyebrows, the team selections for the ODIs and Tests in Ireland and England have been quite good.

Here are some of my “raised eyebrow” issues:


  • The worst goof up is, IMVHO, the absence of a coach for such an important tour. This is going to be a long and an arduous tour and the embark on it without a full-time, professional coach is nothing short of blasphemy. While we can understand and perhaps even accept that Messers Sharad Powar, Niranjan Shah, Ratnakar Shetty and Srinivasan — Board aficionados — can do nothing more than smelling money, it amazes me that cricketing folk like Sunil Gavaskar, S. Venkatraghavan and Ravi Shastri can hold their heads high after delivering one of the bleakest moments for Indian Cricket! The lack of accountability for the manner in which this search process was planned, conducted and executed is galling. Who will pay for this mess that these goons have landed Indian cricket in? Surely this bunch couldn’t organise a booze-party in a brewery even if their life depended on it!
  • This persistence with Gautam Gambhir is a bit puzzling. He is now in both teams, which makes it all the more frustrating. If the team wanted a cover for the Jaffer-Karthik combine for the Tests, perhaps Aakash Chopra would have been a better choice. He has a tight technique and has also worked the club circuit in England for the last few years!
  • The absence of Dinesh Mongia will, I think, hurt the team. He is a decent bat. He has played many a season in England on the county circuit. And he is a decent enough bowler to claim the 5th bowlers’ slot in a ODI team. His absence hurt the balance of Team India in the World Cup and I suspect that this will be the case in this series too. Unless India are able to unearth a decent allrounder, someone like Mongia (or even Pathan) should be in the team, in my view.
  • The presence of Ajit Agarkar in the ODI team! I really can’t fathom this. Perhaps the selection team decided that, with the unreliability of Munaf Patel, they needed someone more experienced in the attack. Agarkar continues to be an enigma. When Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag and Munaf Patel have been punished for their lackadaisical approach to the game, I am not sure why Agarkar was spared. While his physical intensity is not really in question, his mental approach to the game is certainly, in my view, lackadaisical.
  • The choice of vice-captains. Sachin Tendulkar is vice-captain in Tests and Dhoni is the vice-captain in ODIs. Figure that one out! Is there a hint that, keeping in mind the huge “why two wicketkeepers” outcries during the Bangladesh Test series, this bifurcation in vice-captain responsibilities means Dhoni will perhaps sit out in the Tests against England? It is certainly possible, although I am possibly reading too much into things… Second-guessing Team India selectors is always a hard task!
  • The presence of Laxman in the Test team. I have said enough on this topic in the past and so won’t repeat it. He is an over-rated cricketer with a poor work-ethic. He should make way for youngsters like Rohit Sharma, S. Badrinatha and Cheteshwar Pujara.

Having said that, let us look at the possible teams:

ODIs:
Gautam Gambhir
Robin Uthappa / Dinesh Karthik
Sourav Ganguly
Sachin Tendulkar
Rahul Dravid (capt)
Yuvraj Singh / Rohit Sharma
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (vice-capt, wk)
Ramesh Powar / Piyush Chawla
Ajit Agarkar
Zaheer Khan
Sreesanth / RP Singh

The first thing that strikes you about this team is its lack of balance. This is where a Dinesh Mongia (or a performing-Pathan) provide an edge. And that is another reason why the absence of Virender Sehwag creates a bigger hole. While one can certainly understand that Sehwag needs to be left out of the team, one can’t ignore the fact that Sehwag would routinely bowl 5-6 steady overs every game. Yuvraj Singh does not bowl much these days. And Sachin Tendulkar is no 10-overs-every-match type of bowler.

While Rohit Sharma does bowl off-spin, I don’t see him as able to dislodge the middle-grouping of Ganguly-Tendulkar-Dravid-Yuvraj. Morevoer, he has not really bowled in first-class games and has bowled only a few overs in List-A and Twenty20 games.

The fast-bowling department lacks discipline, balance, pace and depth. While one can understand why Munaf Patel wasn’t chosen, the left-field appearance of Ajit Agarkar is a throwback to the pre-World-Cup-2007 hoopla. The collective ODI experience of this group is shallow and will, I believe, expose them badly. Then again, they may do really well through a combination of hard work, disciplined line-and-length and fielding excellence.

The less said about the fielding, the better!

Tests:
Wasim Jaffer
Dinesh Karthik / Gautam Gambhir
Rahul Dravid (capt)
Sachin Tendulkar (vice-capt)
Sourav Ganguly
VVS Laxman / Yuvraj Singh
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk) / Ramesh Powar
Anil Kumble
Zaheer Khan
Sreesanth
Ranadeb Bose / RP Singh / Ishant Sharma

The opening combination is a dreadful worry. Again, it is likely that Jaffer will pull his offside discipline together and it is likely that Karthik will be able to dig his heels in. But it is a worry that Team India is approaching its longer-term planning and development in this manner. I fear that Karthik is going to go down the path of people like Deep DropGupta, Party Patel and Sanjay Bangar before him! A makeshift can only be that… makeshift! Even Virender Sehwag, with a batting average of nearly 50, has been left behind. A makeshift he was too. I wonder how many more will be sacrificed before a longer-term view is taken of the opening position. It is a vital position — especially when touring England and Australia.

I hope the team does not play two ‘keepers. They can then either go with Powar or Yuvraj Singh at #7. I know (and have heard) the ‘spin’ around Karthik being chosen purely as a batsman. But if Karthik can ‘keep as well as Dhoni — and possibly even a tad better — why not choose another bowler?

The absence of any young batting talent in this team is also a concern. I’d have liked to have seen a Rohit Sharma or a Cheteshwar Pujara instead of VVS Laxman! But apart from a protest message from ‘gnbmdr’ this view isn’t going to do much — at least for the time being!

Finally again, the bowling… I have a feeling that one of Ranadeb Bose or Ishant Sharma (and not RP Singh) will get a guernsey in the bowling line-up. I like the look of Bose. And if there is an optimal place for his to make his debut, it would be in England. What he lacks in pace, he more than adequately makes up with away movement and line-and-length. Still, the bowling lacks depth and balance. The only safe way for this team to get 20 wickets consistently will be, IMVHO, if it goes in with a 5-man bowling attack. And for that to happen, Dhoni needs to bench-warm!

All in all, it is not a great selection effort. But it is not a bad hand either. It will have to do, given the bench-strength. The sacking of Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan has to be commended. At the same time, the reinstating of Ajit Agarkar is more mysterious than his Mickey Mouse ears! I do, however, feel that the absence of a proper coach, the absence of Dinesh Mongia from the ODI team and the presence of VVS Laxman in the Test team will hurt India.

I am happy to be proven wrong on all these counts…

— Mohan

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21 responses to “Team India Selection: Lack of Balance and Coach…

  1. sampath kumar

    Mohan,

    tendulkar is not hte vice-captain for the ODIs–may be he has told the selectors that he wants to retire from ODIs soon–or–the selectors have told him that he is not guaranteed to play in every game

    Agarkar is a swing bowler suited to English conditions–but the overwhelming factor will be , he is from gavaskar’s home town!!!!

    VVS laxman–same as tendulkar, in the past 2 years, too slow with the bat, on the field, can’t bowl, can’t throw etc—likes to fish outside the off stump every ball!!!

    Any coaching for Team India as how to bat against the rampaging sardar—Month Panesar

    Like Tendulkar did with Sivarama Krishnan in the nets before tackling Warne on Indian pitches or hayden spending a few weeks in Chennai before the aussies toured India a few years ago, may be Team India cancel bullshit things like commando training and face the bowling of Venkatapathy raju, Sunil Joshi or even Bishen bedi for a few days!!!

  2. Mohan,

    Nice analysis. Some selections are inexplicable – Gambhir or Ranabir Bose, Agarkar. Some it is due to regional factors – Northzone and backing of senior players.

    I am a unabashed fan of Laxman. But I think this tour would be make or break for him. I have the same feeling about Ganguly.

    Sanjay Manjrekar remarked that he expects – big match winning hundreds from the Senior players – Dravid, Sachin, Ganguly or Laxman – not the quick 35 – 40 that would ensure selection for the next match.

    Jaffar is funny player – either get out in single digits or score big hundred when he is about to be dropped. Akash Chopra is much better batsman who can atleast see-off the new ball for a session.

    Bowling will depend on Zaheer and Kumble. Hopefully, SreeSanth and RP Singh can provide good support. I am sure Ganguly would also bowl some overs in England.

  3. I feel Ganguly is actually playing well. Laxman’s run out in South Africa told me that he is physically and mentally lazy. I am hoping that this will not be a make-or-break-tour for him– it should be a break-tour 🙂

    BTW, it is Ranadeb, not Ranabir…

  4. After England, I think it is Australia tour . India’s Australia strategy would be Laxman 🙂 I hope India has a better answer.

    Aussies are not good in playing off-spin from the days of E. Prasanna. Hopefully, by that time India has a good off-spinner.

  5. Hey ! dude Mohan: Watch out on what are you trying to say abt Laxman! Laxman for me still a great player with a lot of calibre indian cricketer. It is unfortunate that he is born in India. If he is australian he would have become the next Bradman by now. I am not over saying it but it is . He is the most under-estimated and very poorly treated indian cricketer. Anyways he will prove his best in England tour and will tell every one in the BCCI that what kind of mistakes they have done from the past two yrs by not giving him enough chances.

    Please harness your words when you are saying about a guy like Laxman.

    Thanks
    Praveen

  6. gnbmdr,

    The best there are in the land happen to be Harbhajan Singh and Romesh Powar. Sad…

  7. The selection of Agarkar is on the same logic as of Chandu Borde.When everyone is looking at young, fit and creative coaches we go for someone who would be considered retired for any other job.I think Pawar has ushered in the Maharashtra brigade in full force with Gavaskar leading in forefront.As usual the game and Indian pride is the victim.

  8. Correction to previous comment Borde is appointed manager.

  9. Well said Harinee! I am seeing a complete “Mumbai” conspiracy in this selection. what with Pawar, Gavaskar, Shastri and Vengsarkar all to the fore what can you expect.

  10. sampath kumar

    The selection of Chandu Borde is a gisgrace and smack in the face for aspiring managers in Indian cricket. There must be at least 20 or so Ranji team managers and 5 or so Duleep team managers, who would be thinking of giving the game away. In any organisation, you expect upward movement, with knowledge and experience. With a 72 year old retired cricketer as the Manager–there is such a generation gap that communication between him and the players will be the lowlight of this tour. When Colin Cowdrey toured Australia on recall, it was dubbed the Dad’s army. Now Team India will be labelled budda’s bachon!!!

    mi kyan karoon Ram, mujhe budda mil gaya!!!!

  11. Mohan, you’re right on the button with the accountability. More on that here… What next, Mr Gavaskar?

  12. Srikanth Mangalam

    It does stink of a Mumbai takeover (again!) doesn’t it? What is the most disappointing of all is the performance of Ravi Shastri in this whole debacle. I have had immense respect for Mr. Shastri and I thought he did a reasonable job in Bangladesh (on hindsight it must be said that he chose the easiest of tours). He has let Indian cricket down badly and his own reputation is tarnished. Nothing better can be expected from a mentally ageing (with all its glorious symptoms) Sunil Gavaskar, and Venkataraghavan is one egotistic individual.

  13. Srikanth Mangalam

    By the way, I am okay with the team in general. There is not much you could have done differently other than the odd changes that Mohan has pointed out. There isn’t anyone in the reckoning who can shake things up dramatically, and we cannot afford to lose our seniors atleast for the time being. Again, there are some exceptions (Mr. Laxman should consider thank himself for being a saibaba devotee, there are lots of them in the administration as well!!)

  14. How well BCCI unearth (almost literally!) talents (I am referring to selection of team manager).

  15. Why is Laxman still there? Ugh. Everybody keeps talking about his artistry. If that is all you got, you are in trouble. Does anyone describe the Australian batsmen in such a way.

    I agree with everything you said. This is going to be another mediocre tour. Nothing will be lost or won. The same decisions that face the team will be need to be adressed later. But someone will postpone all of that, of course.

  16. Come on, guys, relax on Laxman. If I recall correctly, in the last tour of England, Laxman played well – many scores in the 70s.

    On a technical note, Laxman is a better player on a bouncy pitch than the moving ball. Hoggard, the new lefty Sidebottom could give him a hard time.

    On that matter, the new left arm seamer would be England’s main weapon against many Indian batsmen known for fishing outside the off-stump. Remember all the left arm bowlers who had very good success against India.

    For some reason, Sachin is much more circumspect against a left arm slow bowler. Panesar – Sachin would be interesting.

  17. gnbmdr said, “Come on, guys, relax on Laxman.”

    Why?

  18. I am sure Laxman will come thru’ in this tour. That is why I am requesting to hold your horses.

    Just read the newspapers, the diversity of opinions of Kiran More, Gaeakwad, Ajit Wadekar on the palyers selected for the England tour is amazing.

    Sehwag should have been selected as opener.
    Irfan is better than Ajit Agarkar for one-days in England conditions
    VRV should have been selected instead of Bose

  19. gnbmdr, I would be a very happy person if I were proved wrong (as I said in my post itself). But my point was that IF we were going by strictly performances and fitness rather than reputation alone, VVS should not have been on the team bus. The fact that he may salvage his career in England is a different matter. It is a hope that all of us have. But if we are going on performances and fitness (witness the treatment of Munaf Patel, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh) then, one has to ask what VVS is doing there.

    That was my point…

    Mohan

  20. I don’t agree that all the left armers have had good success vs India. I’d put it this way: “all the orthodox spinners whom India is facing for the first time” have done well against them.

    They won’t be playing Monty for the first time. So the battle will be interesting.

    Mohan,

    You want Mongia in the ODI squad? Why? When did he score well last time?

  21. doni is the right person for captain
    doni was leading the team stably he was taking good decession on the right time

    i think rahul sharma should more better
    even robin utthappa work hard.

    shree shanth doing better

    all the best for the indian team for the comming matches

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