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India Need Proper Team Selection

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Bhuvneshwar_Kumar_Harbhajan_Singh_India_cricketThe shock of a 63-run defeat to Sri Lanka in the first Test at Galle is just about subsiding. It was a tough result to swallow  – even for those watching, let alone the players – that a team could lose in such manner on day four after dominating the match for the first three days. It has happened before in Indian cricket, and this won’t be the last time either. Only, the current team management needs to make sure it doesn’t happen again anytime soon.

The most important question to ask is, what was the biggest factor in this turn-around loss? There are some who will say it was Rangana Herath’s magnificent spell. Others will say that it was Dinesh Chandimal’s rearguard hundred. There might be a few who would argue that it was umpiring error in the first place that allowed him to score those runs and Herath the opportunity to bowl again. There will also be those who will blame Indian batting’s ineptness against the turning ball.

All of the above are valid points, and could have been dealt with, perhaps barring the umpiring calls. India could have bowled better at Chandimal, coming up with an emergency plan of action when their plans A and B weren’t working. They could have batted better against some quality spin bowling, showing more positive intent after all the talk of aggression. Instead, they went into their shells and were choked until defeat.

While all these factors are to be dealt with on field, selecting the right personnel to do the job can certainly mitigate them. At Galle, India’s bowling selection was right, given how the pitch was turning. But combine it with their selected batting line-up, and the two didn’t help them over-turn the result despite dominating the majority of the match.

Rohit Sharma didn’t cut it as a number three batsman, even as Cheteshwar Pujara was ignored yet again. The five-bowler ploy worked in principle because they got twenty Lankan wickets. But it failed in the way Harbhajan Singh bowled in both the innings. He was given a prolonged spell in both cases and failed to keep up the pressure, as batsmen were able to settle down and attack him. In hindsight, one can also say that India missed a seventh batsman as they collapsed in the second innings.

The knee-jerk reaction to this loss was Stuart Binny's call up to the team. He has played three Tests so far, in England; conditions totally different than the ones in Lanka. He is someone who is a bit batsman and a bit bowler, not a complete all-rounder yet. So what does he bring to the table?

 

Apparently, both Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri believe that the fifth bowler is not really an out-and-out requirement. Instead they need someone who can bowl a few overs, useful ones, and then contribute with the bat as well. They want to play with four and a half bowlers, and six and a half batsmen. And Binny fits that bill of course.

The problem is where the series stands at the moment. In Galle, India lost a match from the edge of winning it. It has become a feature of their overseas travels. You can count Johannesburg, Auckland and Adelaide as the missed chances over the past fifteen months or so. That tally is now up to four matches. Read that as four wins and you will be able to see this Indian team in a completely different light.

Instead this team is staring hard at three defeats and one draw, thinking what possibly went wrong. Is there a case to play it safe then? If you know that four bowlers are all that is needed, why not go in with an extra batsman? Why not opt out of giving only short spells to the primary bowlers, and use some part-timer options? Rohit can bowl, so can Murali Vijay. Yes, the absence of a genuine all-rounder is hurting Indian cricket, but how long are they going to sit and whine about it?

Or is it something totally different? Playing four bowlers and seven batsmen, will that be seen as a defensive ploy? Has the team management talked too loud, too much and too early? Is the aggressive chatter and chest beating not allowing them to take a step back, even if it is for the better of the team? So much so that they are ready to compromise on the balance of the playing eleven?

This second Test in Colombo will answer these pertinent questions.



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