For once, the national cricket selectors were spot-on in their decision to drop Gambhir for the opening two Tests against Australia. It was a long time coming, and the Delhi southpaw was quick to react by tweeting that he did not need any sympathy. Not that he would have received any given the fact that he was on borrowed time in the wake of string of flops in the recent times.
However, Harbhajan’s inclusion was undoubtedly linked to his reputation than form in sharp contrast to Gambhir’s omission. I see some contradiction in the different yardsticks the selectors used in picking the India squad.
Likewise, Dhawan’s inclusion ahead of Jaffer who I thought deserved one last chance, was a surprise, though the Delhi youngster has matched the Mumbai opening batsman in terms of runs scored this season. Obviously, the selectors plumped for youth rather than experience, and here too, it ran contrary to argument that favoured Harbhajan’s inclusion that had more to do with his record against the Aussies rather than current form.
If anything, Dhoni will be spoilt for choice picking the spin attack, though a lot would depend on how the skipper will read the pitch at Chepauk ahead of the first Test later this month. In recent times, the relaid Chepauk strip has not exactly facilitated good cricket due to its low bounce and absence of pace that it was once renowned for.
Ashwin, Ojha, Harbhajan and Jadeja present a formidable quartet, but it is unlikely they will all be in the playing eleven. No doubt, it is early days yet to speculate on the combination, but it is safe to presume that Ashwin and Ojha will get preference with Jadeja always available to reinforce the spin attack.
In this context, the elevation of seamer Bhuvaneshwar Kumar from ODI to Test squad is a good move, though one might point out that the two formats are as different as chalk and cheese. However, it is a good investment, but hopefully the young man will get a long run to find his feet at the highest level. In the past, far too many young guns have been picked and dropped for no rhyme or reason and without getting adequate exposure.
The underlying fact of the entire selection process is that the selectors have sent out a strong signal that while they are willing to accommodate, some premium has been put on performance. For somebody like Sehwag, whose form has been rather iffy and opted out of the Irani Cup at the very last moment citing illness, the Tests in Chennai and Hyderabad would be crucial. I am sure, he is smart enough to realize that the selectors would not think twice to drop him if he continues to fail.
Given the fact that Sehwag, barring a century in Ahmedabad, failed in the remaining six innings where his best was a 49, he was fortunate to have retained his spot in the squad. I suspect, the selectors deferred from introducing a fresh opening pair and preferred to have an experienced batsman at the top.
Talking about form of our top batsmen, it was heartening to watch Sachin bat in the Irani Cup. I was struck by the fluency and positive approach that the maestro exhibited and in patches, he looked the Sachin of old, forthright and attacking. Even granting that the quality of bowling was not exactly top drawer, we got to see a rejuvenated Sachin who has obviously given a lot of thought to his flop show in the two series against the Kiwis and England.
With a slightly altered stance, Sachin displayed imperious touch and there was hardly any hesitancy in his shot selection. Indeed, it was as good a batting exhibition from the little master one could hope to watch. It is amazing that even after two decades of international cricket, the man is so committed. It is to be hoped that Sachin carries his form against the Aussies.
Overall, the selectors acquitted themselves well and while not hesitating to wield the axe, Sandeep Patil’s team has shown some pragmatism that augurs well for the future, provided of course, they are given a free rein and a long rope.