The best part of Gary Kirsten’s golden phase was the tranquillity and serene atmosphere in the Indian dressing room which his predecessor Greg Chappell had almost wrecked. Another striking feature of Guru Gary’s term of office was the brilliant team management and rotation of players in a busy cricket calender. But it seems that the incumbent coach Duncan Fletcher, along with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been unsuccessful in carrying forward this custom.
India continued their horror run in Asia Cup and found themselves in cold waters, once again failing to make it to the finals. An inconsequential match against Afghanistan was still to be played and it was a perfect opportunity to test the bench strength and give a much needed exposure to Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishwar Pandey, who have been carrying the drinks throughout the tournament.
But the fans were in for a shock once again as the same XI was used against the new entrants in ODI cricket, thereby defying all cricketing logic and sense. In fact, if we look at India’s team selection post the 2011 World Cup, then it doesn’t seem surprising at all.
Back in the English summer of 2011, the World champs suffered a humiliating 0-4 drubbing in the Pataudi Trophy and lost the ODI series as well, failing to win a single match. Despite regular failures of the tried and tested medium pacers, no changes were made to the side. Varun Aaron, India’s new fast bowling sensation, spent all his time warming the benches when he could have got a handy experience on his first foreign tour.
How unlucky is Amit Mishra to have played so less despite making his debut in December 2004?
Amit Mishra can probably be called the unluckiest cricketer of his time, though Manoj Tiwari could give him a tough fight too. The leggie made his debut in December 2004, but till date has played only 23 ODIs. Mishra was once again overlooked in New Zealand, despite Ashwin and Jadeja’s struggle. Barring his lean patch here and there, he has always proved himself in the limited opportunities. And his recent exploits against Pakistan in the do or die game is a testimony to that.
Unfortunately, the team management’s preconceptions about a leg-spinner not taking wickets has dented his chances to play as a regular for the national team and that too when your main spinner has struggled to take wickets overseas.
Parvez Rasool was also not considered against Zimbabwe in a 5-match ODI series when India already had a 3-0 unbeatable lead.
Stuart Binny got a call to the team from the selectors in the hope that the final piece of the jigsaw – a medium pacer bowling all-rounder could be fixed. With the World Cup 2015 in Oceania, the selection couldn’t have been more apt. But Alas! The handling of Binny by the team management was shocking to say the least and he was made to feel as an outsider, making it look like the team management had confidence in him. In spite of the snub, he continued his glorious run with both bat and ball in the Irani Trophy.
Over the years we have seen strange selections and recalls to the Indian team despite non performances. RP Singh’s name comes to mind straight away. There was a rumoured tiff between the selection committee and MS Dhoni regarding Irfan Pathan a few years back.
Time and again it has been alleged that Dhoni has favoured players from the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL or given them an extended run. It is pertinent to ask whether a groupism has crept in the Indian dressing room, or is it just poor and lazy team strategy?
Another big flaw in Dhoni’s captaincy recently has been the inability to take risks in challenging conditions and just going through the motions. India have seldom found themselves in driver’s seat, but only to deceive at the last moment.
Whether it’s chasing 86 runs in 15 overs on the last day of Dominica Test in 2011 and settling for a draw, or losing out steam against South Africa in Johannesburg on Day 5, the indications are for all to see.
Is it true that a captain has a shelf life? Has he overlived it? Is it the end of Dhoni’s midas touch? Or is it a team in transition? The answers must be sought quickly!