Bhuvneshwar's ouster from the team is foolhardy

Last Updated: Sat, Jan 13, 2018 20:40 hrs
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ravi Shastri have a chat during a nets session

Virat Kohli is an extremely passionate and confident Indian captain. He makes decisions and is willing to stand by them irrespective of the consequences and results of those decisions.

He is not one to be politically correct and do the expected and safe thing but is willing to experiment and backs himself to do the right thing more often than not. This combination of ruthless confidence and willingness to bear the consequences of doing something that may not be universally approved is what makes him such a successful batsman and captain.

The second Test at Centurion is the 34th of his captaincy career and just one man has featured in the playing XI of all 34 Tests. No prizes for guessing who: Virat Kohli.

Some of these changes have been necessitated by injury while others have been due to loss of form and a horses for courses approach.

India made three changes to their playing XI from the first Test at Newlands. Wriddhiman Saha, Shikhar Dhawan and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have been replaced by Parthiv Patel, KL Rahul and Ishant Sharma. While Saha had a niggle, and had to be replaced by Parthiv, the other two changes do not make much sense.

This Indian team is lucky to have the depth in fast bowling that was just a dream and a mirage to previous Indian teams. Shami is considered the leader of the attack and offers pace and both conventional and reverse swing.

Umesh Yadav is the fastest of the lot and also gets reverse swing. Ishant Sharma is the tallest and gets pace and bounce while Bhuvneshwar Kumar swings the ball both ways and is lethal in conditions where there is a bit of lateral movement.

Bhuvneshwar is not always a first choice in the playing XI but is always drafted into the side in helpful conditions. Bumrah has excelled in the shorter formats of the game and has been fast tracked into Test cricket because of this very reason.

For the first Test, Ishant Sharma was not fit enough and Bumrah made his debut. Bumrah had a reasonable debut but was guilty of providing too many loose deliveries in the Proteas' first innings.

Coming back to this Test, in the opinion of this author, Kohli and the Indian team management have definitely erred in dropping Bhuvneshwar and have not shown consistency and are contradicting themselves by selecting KL Rahul instead of Dhawan.

While Ishant's selection is definitely dubious and defies cricketing sense, Rahul's could be viewed as contentious. Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties and Ishant and Rahul might play starring roles and help India win the second Test and level the series.

In that case it will be viewed as inspired selections whereas a poor performance from either or both of them will lead to tongues wagging. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty vision and therefore any criticism should be made before the result of the Test is known.

Legendary fast bowler Michael Holding is considered one of the most knowledgeable pundits particularly when it concerns fast bowling. He was quite vocal in his criticism of dropping Bhuvneshwar.

The main reason for dropping Bhuvneshwar was that he is supposedly not effective in conditions where there is no lateral movement in the air and off the pitch. They also feel that he lacks pace and cannot hurry the batsmen whereas Ishant has the height and pace to exploit a surface with bounce.

With mentioning names Holding also said that he heard from someone high up in the Indian cricket hierarchy that India dropped Bhuvneshwar from this Test because they felt that Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah offer the same thing and cannot be played together in the same XI.

Holding clearly disagreed with this theory and said that even if this was true, Bumrah should have been the one dropped.

During India's successful tour of the Caribbean in 2016, Bhuvneshwar wasn't selected for the first two Tests but picked up 5/33 in the first innings of the third Test at Gross Islet. In the second Test against New Zealand at home in Kolkata in 2016, he once again picked up a five-wicket haul in the first innings (5/48).

Bhuvneshwar has always delivered whenever he has been given the opportunity whereas Ishant flatters to deceive. When Bhuvneshwar made his debut five seasons back he used to bowl in the mid-120s (kph) but in the last couple of seasons has put on a couple of yards in pace and is now in the mid to high 130s without losing his ability to swing the ball.

Going by the speed gun on the first morning of the second Test, Ishant was barely managing to register the same speed so the theory of his greater pace and bounce was just theoretical. In 7 Tests played in Australia, England and South Africa, Bhuvneshwar has picked up 26 wickets at 30.53 with two five wicket hauls.

In 27 Tests in England, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Ishant has picked up 80 wickets at an astronomical bowling average of 45.31. This comparison in helpful conditions for fast bowlers shows Bhuvneshwar is streets ahead.

Moreover, Bhuvneshwar keeps the pressure on and does not bowl any loose deliveries offering his captain a measure of control. India's batsmen with the exception of Hardik Pandya in the first innings and Ravichandran Ashwin in the second innings of the first Test were poor.

Bhuvneshwar showed a calm temperament and considerable pedigree with the bat to score 25 and 13 not out with the bat. His absence from the team further weakens an already brittle line-up.

Some would argue that it's the job of the batsmen to score runs while the best bowlers should be selected. However, Bhuvneshwar's absence further lengthens India's tail. Moreover, it sends a poor message to the team if one of the best performers in the previous Test is benched on such flimsy grounds and dubious logic.

As far as Rahul's selection goes it is not as glaring a mistake as Ishant's but it is still debatable. Dhawan has played in 11 Tests in the above four countries and averages just 27.81 with one century.

Rahul has played just two Tests in the above countries so we can't read anything into his record. However, he does not have a weakness against the short ball like Dhawan and is a better player of pace.

But the Indian team management are not being fair to Dhawan by dropping him after his failures in the first Test while continuing to ignore the candidature of Ajinkya Rahane while picking Rohit Sharma because of his good form in recent times which has come in the Indian sub-continent.

Rahane has scored 1069 runs in 13 Tests in the above four countries at an average of 48.59 with three centuries. Rohit has played nine Tests in these four countries and has scored just 395 runs at 23.23 without a single century.

Kohli and Shastri have always said that they will do what is in the best interest of the team without being swayed by external influences. However, they are contradicting themselves by failing to be logical and consistent with their selections.

India might still go on to win this Test but that will be in spite of the contentious selections rather than because of it.

The author tweets @ravivenkat007

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