The selection meeting for the Asia Cup provided an ideal opportunity to India to start afresh after two awful foreign tours. It could have opened a whole new era in Indian cricket by sending a strong message to the seniors and non-performers in the team. Perform or perish should have been the mantra for looking ahead.
The selectors not only missed to seize the opportunity, they took India back a step further.
What could they have done? They should have dropped non-performing Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja from the Asia Cup team. It would have given the players a clear-cut message that the only criterion to be in the team is to score runs or take wickets.
But it seems performance is not the only yardstick to get a place in the Team India. An out-of-form Suresh Raina, who has just scored 182 runs in 8 matches at 26, played all the matches while talented Manoj Tiwary continued to warm the benches despite the fact that his last international appearance fetched his maiden international century.
In any other country Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja would have been dropped from the team. But not in India as Raina is Dhoni’s favourite and so is Ravindra Jadeja.
All-rounder Jadeja (One of my colleague says Jadeja is ‘all rounder’ because he is equally bad at bowling and batting) continued to frustrate millions of fans back home with his skills (or lack of them) both with the bat and ball. In eight matches, he recorded a batting average of 16 with his sluggish batting. He is a kind of batsman who can at best narrow the margins of defeat. Never expect him to win you matches.
His bowling is more pathetic. In one match he was not even asked to bowl in the entire innings. In 8 matches, he picked up only 3 wickets. When I started watching cricket years back, someone told me that don’t consider one a bowler if his number of wickets doesn’t exceed his number of matches he played. I think it’s a good measurement to judge someone if he is a bowler or someone who can roll over his arm. Hence, Jadeja’s performance as a bowler does not make him an automatic choice in the team.
It’s also surprising how Dhoni picks Jadeja ahead of Irfan Pathan as an all-rounder. Irfan is far better both as a bowler and a batsman. A big hitter of the cricket ball, he has shown more than enough signs of improvement in his bowling with his changed action. He is the best man to don the all-rounder role in the side. But he misses out because he does not have the blessings of MSD who has created a culture of sycophancy in the team.
It seems that anyone who is close to Dhoni is difficult to be dropped from the team and vice versa, for Dhoni leads a side in the IPL which happens to be the team of BCCI’s most powerful man. So if you are close to Dhoni, you will get a longer run in the team. Otherwise, ready to face the axe anytime!
Dhoni has become so powerful that no one can question his decisions. No doubt Sehwag and Gambhir broke team protocols (which I personally don’t support) by speaking in public against their captain. But does Dhoni deserve to captain the Test team anymore after two whitewashes he suffered? The fact is that Dhoni has lost respect and command over the seniors due to his own performances with the bat and lackadaisical attitude as a captain. But nobody can question Dhoni as he has the backing of the board president.
You can’t expect a democratic set-up in the team when the BCCI officials run the game in an autocratic manner. They don’t come up with any explanation why a certain player has been picked or dropped.
Now, Sehwag has found himself out of the team and Gambhir has lost hopes of captaining the side in the future as he was not chosen as the vice-captain. The message is loud and clear: everybody should toe in Dhoni’s line.
Look at Dhoni’s favourite players: Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin; each one plays for Chennai Super Kings. Dhoni, a shrewd man, knows if he keeps the owner of the CSK team happy, he would continue to captain the Team India in spite of India’s horrible performances.
The way Sehwag has been dumped and the circumstances under which Virat Kohli has been chosen vice-captain despite Gautam Gambhir’s presence in the side, show that Sehwag and Gambhir have paid the price of taking on their captain. MSD may have emerged stronger, but not India. Dhoni may have bright future ahead as Indian captain but India’s fortune certainly looks bleak…