It is imperative that the controversy surrounding Pervez Rasool’s non-inclusion in the playing eleven is not blown out of proportion so as to push aside India’s commendable clean sweep over Zimbabwe.
The fact that this has been the subject matter of discussions on TV, that even staid newspapers have carried stories on page one and even the chief minister of the state from which he hails from has questioned his omission and called it a humiliation, is the kind of over reaction that one can expect perhaps only in this country.
Let me say it first. I thought the team management erred in not giving Rasool a game. The opposition was so weak that there need not be talk of a settled team. Against such opponents it is wise, and maybe even a far sighted move, to give fresh players their break. This is particularly so after the series has been decided.
For the fourth game Cheteswar Pujara and Mohit Sharma were brought in while Ajinkya Rahane was given a game in the final match. Without sweating it out too much Virat Kohli and his boys completed a 5-0 victory. The scenario cried out for Rasool to be given a break but for reasons best known to itself the team management thought it fit to keep him out making him the only player in the touring squad not to get a game.
Rasool could have been easily accommodated in place of a spin bowler. He could even have been accommodated at the expense of a pace bowler without affecting the balance of the side. Why, he could have taken the place of even a batsman with the opposition being so emaciated. Whichever way one looks at the situation, there cannot be an excuse for Kohli and his co-selectors in not picking Rasool for at least one game. Under the circumstances Kohli’s defence in not giving Rasool a game is unacceptable.
It was an incorrect decision even as far as looking ahead is concerned. The Sandip Patil-led selection committee made the right move in resting the established stars and giving a few young players a place in the touring squad. That signaled a far sighted approach. It was left to the team management to embellish this move by seeing that they were included in the playing squad.
This they did in the case of Mohit and Rayudu and both youngsters came off while Pujara made his ODI debut. In the case of Rasool they have been guilty of a blunder. He must be heart broken by the time he returns to India. With no matches involving the Indian team for some time how does he get a chance to prove his worth?
And in any case Rasool like the other new faces was included in the team for Zimbabwe because everyone knew the weakness of the opposition. For the next series of matches it is quite likely that the established stars will return. What happens to Rasool? He faces the danger of being forgotten and his dream of becoming the first player from Jammu & Kashmir to play for India could well go up in smoke.
Fortunately for Rasool he has an opportunity to see that he does not fade away into oblivion. He is a member of the India A squad that tours South Africa from later this week and one can only hope that skipper Pujara and his co-selectors will not commit the same mistake that was made on the just concluded tour.
The 24-year-old certainly has the credentials for besides picking up 46 wickets in 17 first class matches at 31 apiece with his text book off spin bowling he is also more than a handy batsman having notched up 1003 runs at almost 40 with three hundreds and a highest score of 171.
The exclusion of Rasool apart it must be said that the mission of the tour was accomplished. The 5-0 verdict was perhaps not unexpected, most of the established stars were among the runs and the wickets but most important and heart-warming was the fact that Mohit and Rayudu given the big breaks came off.
It can be reasonably concluded that had Rasool been given a chance he would have come off too. The cynics might say that too much should not be read into the performances which were against one of the weakest sides in the game. To be candid Zimbabwe were a disappointment. They have a tradition of being fighters and this has made up for lack of technique but this time particularly against spin they were pathetic.
Still picking up 18 wickets in five ODIs is something that does not happen every day and Amit Mishra will hopefully be encouraged to explore bigger pastures. Yes, there were disappointments notably Vinay Kumar and Mohammed Shami among the newcomers and Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma among the established players.
But Jaydev Unadkat’s bowling was another plus point as also is Jadeja’s rise to the No 1 spot in the ICC ODI bowler rankings – the first time an Indian has enjoyed this exalted status since Anil Kumble in 1996. That’s how we have to look back on the tour – concentrate on the plus points and put aside the negative aspects – including the non-inclusion of Rasool!