New Delhi: Captaincy of the Indian team, even if it’s for one game, couldn’t have come at a better time for Ajinkya Rahane. This is because the two Tests against New Zealand could well be Ajinkya Rahane’s last chance at redemption. A good performance will ensure his place in the team before the big series in South Africa.
However, what has raised eyebrows is how Hanuma Vihari was demoted to India A after being mysteriously dropped for the home series against the Black Caps. He could have got a chance to rake up some good Test scores.
Regular Test captain Virat Kohli has taken rest as a part of workload management programme. Rohit Sharma is also in need a break after a long stay inside the bio-bubble. The national selection committee under Chetan Sharma had no option but to appoint regular vice-captain Rahane as the leader for one game.
This despite the fact Rahane, in 2021, appeared in all of India’s 11 Test matches (two in Australia, four in India and five in England including the WTC final versus New Zealand). However, he scored only 372 runs at an average of 19. His last innings of significance was 61 at Lord’s in India’s Test win. However, before and after that has been a saga of failures for Rahane. This has led to questions being asked how selectors came to a conclusion that Vihari, whose last effort for India was a match-saving 23 battling torn hamstring in Sydney, was the one who should be axed.
The choice of Jayant Yadav as back-up off-spinner in Test squad, or picking Baba Aparajith over the likes of Mandeep Singh and Sheldon Jackson in India A, could raise pertinent questions as to whether enough respect has been given by this committee when it comes to selecting performers in domestic cricket.
Definitely some of dubious calls have been made by the Chetan-Sharma led committee. The other members of the panel are Debasish Mohanty, Harvinder Singh, Sunil Joshi and Abbey Kuruvilla.
Hardik Pandya back-injury issue
Chetan told media that ‘Hardik Pandya will bowl full quota of overs’ in the IPL leg in UAE. In reality, Pandya didn’t bowl a single over during the tournament. Later Virat Kohli clarified that at some point they are looking at two overs per match from Pandya during the World Cup.
It is now being learnt that Pandya played IPL with lower back injury (since his back operation in 2019) and wasn’t fit to bowl. Chetan and his committee decided to go by skipper Kohli’s demand of playing him as specialist batter. The result was lack of sixth bowling option apart from fact that Pandya has lost his power-game against better bowling.
Selecting 5 spinners and then dropping one
The selectors decided to pick five specialist spinners based on erstwhile T20 captain’s demand. Then when they realised that they have goofed up by believing Pandya’s version of his fitness status, the next thing they did was to demote Axar Patel into the reserves. Then they picked Shardul Thakur from reserves into main squad to keep the balance. Their timing was so ‘immaculate’ that Axar looked dejected and out of sorts during the IPL play-offs.
Hanuma Vihari shunted to India A
There was every possibility that Vihari wouldn’t have played the second Test against New Zealand in Mumbai because regular skipper Virat Kohli would have made a comeback. But out of his 12 Tests so far, Vihari has only played one in India and most of his games have been in Australia, West Indies and one in England, back in 2018.
The last Test for India was where he batted for three-and-half hours with a torn hamstring and saved the match with an unbeaten 23 off 161 balls.
If Rahane with an average of 19 across 11 Tests gets a go, why wasn’t Vihari preferred over Shreyas Iyer, who hasn’t played red ball cricket of late?
The second question is that if Vihari had to be selected for India A, why wasn’t it done in first place on the day A squad was announced and Prithvi Shaw was selected in that list? Was it an after-thought since Shreyas was picked in Test team or was it pre-decided? Like BCCI’s press releases that never gives a proper picture, we won’t know.
Jayant Yadav’s back in mix, Gowtham in India A
Jayant Yadav is a steady off-spinner and capable middle-order batter without being exceptional. He has played four Tests in late 2016 and early 2017 before being plagued by injuries.
But a closer look at his first-class record in the preceding years (before Covid-19) robbed one full domestic season, Jayant had played eight first class games across the earlier two editions of Ranji Trophy. He played two games in 2019-20 (last time Ranji Trophy was held) and got nine wickets with a seven-wicket haul against Jammu and Kashmir. He scored 31 runs.
In the 2018-19 season, he had 147 runs and 10 wickets in six games with no five-wicket haul. A season before that (2017-18) he didn’t play Ranji Trophy due to injury.
So Ravichandran Ashwin’s back-up is a man who has 19 wickets from eight first class games with just two wickets per match.
So is our off-spin cupboard bare? No, we have Krishnappa Gowtham, who recently played ODI in Sri Lanka. He has 54 wickets across 11 games in last two Ranji Trophy seasons (34 in six in 2019-20, 20 in five in 2018-19).
If anyone could explain how 19 wickets from eight games is preferred plays for India and 54 wickets from 11 games is in India A set-up? No explanations.
Baba Aparajith pips Mandeep Singh, Sheldon Jackson
If Baba Aparajith keeps a hand in his heart and asks himself if he expected an India A call-up for three first class (red-ball) games considering his record in Ranji Trophy over the past few seasons.
Aparajith, a sensation at U-19 India level, has been one of the dependable performers for Tamil Nadu but the right-hander would himself admit that he is supremely lucky that the likes of Mandeep Singh Punjab or Sheldon of Saurashtra are overlooked by selectors year-after-year.
Sample this, Aparajith scored 292 runs in eight games at an average of 29.20 while Mandeep has 696 runs in eight games at an average of 69.60 in the 2019-20 season. And Sheldon Jackson? Well, he had 809 runs in 10 games. In the 2018-19 season, Sheldon Jackson had 854 runs in 11 games while Mandeep Singh had 602 runs. So how much Aparajith scored in that season? 379 runs in eight matches games at less than 35 per match.
No second wicket-keeper for A tour
The Indian A team will be leaving for South Africa next week as they play three four day ‘Tests’ (first class games) against Proteas A team from November 23 to December 9. However for the 17-day trip, the selectors have announced only one wicket-keeper in Railways’ Upendra Yadav, who has had couple of good seasons and boasts of first class batting average close to 50. However what is baffling is that for a tour in another part of the world, there is no second wicket-keeper in the squad. India’s No. 1 wicket-keeper Rishabh pant will play T20Is and then take rest. Ishan Kishan will also play T20Is and hence can’t be selected.
Wriddhiman Saha and KS Bharath will be on Test duty. Upendra, who is now No 5 in pecking order, is going to South Africa but strangely there isn’t sixth choice for an A tour.
No wonder former India cricketer Mohinder Amarnath called the selectors ‘a bunch of jokers’.