It’s the ”˜Selection’ and the long tail the culprit

By Gaurav Joshi

Ask any expert or an Indian fan why the team has struggled to win Tests abroad in 2018 and the blunt answer will be ”˜selection’.     Ever since the team departed for South Africa in the last week of 2017, the team management has made some poor decisions that have ended up costing India dearly.

It has taken just two Tests in Australia and the selection debate is raging again across India. How can the Indian team management continue to make blunders in the selection?  How can Virat Kohli continue to defend his precarious selections and truly believe the combinations have been spot-on. The Indian captain is arguably the best batsman in the world, but in terms of tactics and selection he seems to be making the incorrect call.

Funny enough Kohli is not a guy that examines the pitch thoroughly before a match, he likes to leave that with the coaching staff. After the loss in Perth, Kohli said: “having a look at the pitch on day one and how we thought it would play on the first three days, and exactly played out that way.” India’s golden rule of thumb on a pitch that is heavily grassed is to play Bhuvneshwar Kumar.   So when Kohli was asked why Bhuvneshwar was omitted his immediate response was “Bhuvi hasn’t played a lot of four-day cricket recently”.

Before the start of the Test series, India had the luxury of playing in a four-day tour match, a game in which Bhuvneshwar was didn’t deliver a single ball in.   Which begs the question if Bhuvneshwar was never going to be trialled in the practice match and he didn’t play in Perth on what merits will the swing bowler be picked in the upcoming Tests?   If there was ever a pitch Bhuvneshwar was going to play on, it was always going to be a grassy surface in Perth.   But the team management felt he was not ready for the tough grind of Test cricket.

The inclusion of Bhuvneshwar would not only have provided India an option of a holding bowler, but it would have also boosted the lower order batting.   When Kohli was asked if the team ever thought about the long tail, he said: “It’s a very tricky decision to make, what kind of a bowling option you want to go with or you want to think that that guy can contribute with the bat as well.”

Think back to the series loss against England and it was the difference in the lower order runs that proved to be the difference in a closely fought series.   So for the team management not to consider the length of the tail by including Umesh Yadav was strange, to say the least.

Then there was the absence of the front-line spinner.   Ravindra Jadeja missed out because Kohli believed ”˜a fast bowler is going to be more productive and more helpful for us as a team.’   Umesh finished with match figures of 2 for 139 and six runs in two innings.   India had got it wrong, but post-match there is always a far-reaching justification when in reality it should be an admission of a mistake.

India will face further headaches heading into the third match in Melbourne next week.   Hardik Pandya’s arrival means there is fast bowling all-rounder that can fit into No.6, but who does the team management drop?   Will Ravi Ashwin be fit? If not, does India gamble on wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav or play Ravindra Jadeja.   It would be fascinating to see who India picks.   Who they pick could well have dictated the result of the match.


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