India may have won the first Test against Australia in Chennai quite comfortably, but certain issues, especially those related to selection, remain. The biggest mystery is why Pragyan Ojha was dropped.
Ojha was India’s standout bowler of 2012, taking 33 wickets in the 6 matches that he played. He was also tied with Graeme Swann as the joint highest wicket taker getting more wickets than R Ashwin and Monty Panesar in the England series.
The only reason that seems likely that the team management wanted to give Harbhajan Singh his 100th Test. That’s a curious case. India is the only country which is obsessed with landmarks and records.
West Indian fast bowler Curtly Ambrose went after 98 Tests and Aussie legend wicketkeeper called it a day after 96 Tests because he didn’t feel like playing. Brett Lee quit despite being joint highest ODI wicket taker for Australia with Glenn McGrath. He needed just one wicket to go past him.
Even if Bhajji had to be given his 100th Test, then the batting had become quite strong for the simple reason that both Bhajji and Ashwin have Test centuries. Ojha could easily have been taken in place of Jadeja and the team would have been finely balanced. Is the captain too partial towards Jadeja?
The same thing happened when the overseas 0-8 Test debacle happened. In any other country, 0-4 would have led to many heads rolling. The BCCI did absolutely nothing even after 0-8. The result was that batting great Rahul Dravid quit on his own.
Now Dravid had scored 461 runs in England at an average of 77 with 3 centuries. He was also our top run getter in the subsequent home series in India. Dravid was the last person to have gone, but thanks to inaction, was the first to go.
The selection has also continued with its policy of either giving too many Tests or too little. Yuvraj Singh has been given a whopping 40 Tests and one wonders whether they will be tempted to try him again in the future.
Suresh Raina has also been given 17 Tests for a sub-30 average. On the other hand are Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, who have been waiting for one measly Test debut for ages now. Incidentally, Rohit has been given too long a rope in the ODI scene: 88 matches!
The same thing happened in the Chennai Test. Gautam Gambhir’s slot was given to Murli Vijay, who had already played 12 Tests without cementing his place. He failed in both innings. A better thing would have been to give a Test debut to Shikhar Dhawan to see how he would cope at the highest level of cricket.
Gambhir himself might have got a raw deal in the end. The opener had been failing for too long, when it seems that the management decided to give one last chance to him before the England series. He scored 251 runs at an average of 42 and more importantly his score went past 35 in 5 of the 6 innings he played, which is quite good for an opener. But that is the time it was decided that he would be dropped.
The great Sachin Tendulkar has gone a whopping two years without a century. And it’s not just about centuries. During this period, his Test average is in the low thirties. One can’t think of anyone who has been given such a long rope.
The oldest Test player was 52 and many greats have played beyond their 40th birthday. But this is all about performance. How long does Sachin plan to play and how long will the BCCI continue to humour him?
Or will we have another faus pax like VVS Laxman who decided to call it a day despite being picked for the New Zealand tour amid conflicting reports of miscommunication with him and the team management.
Sachin’s ODI retirement and the team’s selection for the tour came at exactly the same time leading to conspiracy theories that he was actually dropped. Will the same thing happen in the Test scene too?
While we did win comfortably with Australia in the Chennai Test, we cannot be overconfident. With England too, we went from 0-1 to 1-2.
Our team selection has to be spot on and one hopes that the team management gets its act together at last.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/