Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Of selections and tactics...

The soups have been served and gulped down, the starters have been devoured.. and now, it is the time for the main course, the real thing. India's off-color showing in the World T20 was, to me, on more or less expected lines (and it was so wonderful to see everyone's second favourite team, the West Indies, win the trophy !). After the victory in 2007, we have not really performed in the World T20. Why that should be so is something of a mystery, and looks unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. Thereafter, the IPL teams failed to deceive in the Champions League T20. It was a pretty forgettable last few weeks for Indian cricket. But now, the real action begins. The Englishmen are here, and our friends from across the border and the men from Down Under are scheduled to come in the next four months in what promises to be one of the most anticipated seasons in Indian cricket in many years. Eight Test matches, 8 ODIs and 4 T20Is. It could not get any bigger than this.
In the build up to the first Test against England (starting November 15 at Ahmedabad), two things in particular have caught my attention. And both have to do with selection issues. The first one was the tactic of not playing a specialist spinner in the warm up game against England. It was slammed, expectedly so, by the English media and, unexpectedly so, by even some former Indian cricketers. I, for one, have no problems with it. It makes perfect sense not to give the visiting side match practice against quality spin, if indeed we have identified spin as the weapon to go in the Tests. In a way, it is similar to what England and Australia do in their home tests. English counties routinely rest their best players in their matches against touring international sides. And a tour of Australia, till recently, used to consist of a warm-up game in Perth on a flyer of a track and against a second-string bowling attack, which was normally good enough to get the better of sub-continental sides. And by the time these sides used to come to the Gabba for the first Test (on an equally fast pitch), they were well and truly cooked. So, I do not understand the logic of calling this move by Patil and co. a 'defensive' move. What should, of course, worry the Englishmen is that the part-timer (Yuvraj) got five wickets !. As I said, I have no problems with that tactic.
But I do have a problem with the selection of the squad for the first 2 Tests. Not per se with the personnel selected (as 9 of the starting 11 almost pick themselves), but with the no. of people selected. I simply cannot imagine why one needs to select 15 for a home series. In all probability, Rahane, Ishant, Murali Vijay and Ojha will spend the next three weeks warming the benches nicely when, instead, they were better served playing for their sides in the Ranji Trophy. It would be a criminal waste of talent if this were to happen. It is high time that the new selection committee stopped this practice. Announce only a squad of 12 or maximum 13 (for each test match seperately - one bowler and batsman as back-up) and stick with it. Even if there are multiple first-morning injuries, a back-up can fly in by the end of the day. And when the test match starts, the two balance players should be released immediately so that they can fly to their respective Ranji teams if the match is beginning the next day. Hope Mr. Patil and co. takes the cue from this !
Also, it was so nice to see so much media coverage to the first round of the Ranji Trophy. Hope this continues for the remainder of the season as well. Cannot wait for the action to begin !

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