India’s team selection for the series against England, beginning from November 15, was the first made by the newly appointed selection committee led by Sandeep Patil. Indian cricket is in a transition period after the retirement of stalwarts like Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. The Indian team was expected to utilise this period to try out a few new combinations in a bid to build a team that would not be mere pushovers whenever they play Test matches outside the sub-continent.
The selection committee has fallen back on the tried and tested formula that has ensured the Indian team the tag of ‘lions at home but dead ducks overseas’. The ‘safe approach’ formula, which marked the selection committee led by Krishnamachari Srikkanth, persists in the selection made by the Sandip Patil-led committee. This team will, in all probability, beat the touring English side but the squad selected shows no foresight required to reclaim the glory that the team lost in England and Australia earlier this year.
The chairman of the selection committee gave a rather lame justification for the squad selected when he said, “We have provided back-ups for all departments”. One struggles to find the logic behind selecting four openers for a home series. The selection seems even more absurd when we consider that the terribly out-of-form duo - Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag - have been retained and will most definitely be the first choice openers. In that case the selection of Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane seems like a formality of sorts, and they are probable successors to Manoj Tiwary, who will warm the benches for some time and then be axed for no apparent reason.
Tiwary’s exclusion shocked many including former India captain Sourav Ganguly. It is difficult to think of one player who deserves a place in the side more than the middle-order batsman from Bengal. One wonders what more he has to do to get a look in and be given a fair run in the playing eleven. It is high time we start rewarding performances and let players, who fail to convert their ‘talent’ into performances, grind themselves in the domestic circuit and earn their places in the national team.
Another selection which raised a few eyebrows was that of Harbhajan Singh. After being dropped from the national team, the veteran off-spinner has done nothing of significance to earn a recall. His inclusion only reveals the dearth of quality spin bowling options in the Indian set up. It will be interesting to see the combination that the Indian team decides to go in with for the first Test. We may as well see India play three spinners to exploit the vulnerability of the English batsmen against spin bowling on the slow and turning wickets of India.
Change should not be restricted to a new set of faces replacing the old but should involve a change of approach and ideas. Indian cricket lovers expected the new selection committee to be bold enough to take a few decisions that would be beneficial for the Indian cricket in the long run. However, they have left a large chunk of the cricket lovers disappointed by following the trend set by their predecessors. The selection is undoubtedly a safe one and a strong one on paper but one that lacks foresight.
The much talked about ‘revenge’ is easy to be achieved in home conditions. However, ‘revenge’ will be sweeter and complete only when we reclaim glory in the land where we lost it. Sadly, the team selected shows no signs of the selectors` intentions of working to achieve that goal.