The Indian selection committee led by chairman Sandeep Patil met in Mumbai to pick the team for the first two Tests against Australia which begin from 22 February. It was a tricky selection and the eventual team picked (Gambhir axed; Harbhajan, Vijay, Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar picked) will raise more questions than the answers it was supposed to provide.
Firstpost has five questions regarding the selections that it would like the selectors to answer if they could and perhaps should.
The biggest news was the dropping on Gautam Gambhir. It is a decision that surprises no one. Over the last one year, he has averaged just 34.33 in Test cricket. But the bigger worry was his technique which seemed to have broken down completely. The decision to not include him in the Irani Cup was probably an indication that the decision to drop Gambhir was taken a while back. So then why has Gambhir been named replacement skipper, in place of Shikhar Dhawan, in the India ‘A’ side for the three-day game against Australia, to be played from 16 February 2013 to 18 February 2013. Will one century against the Australians get him back in contention?
Harbhajan Singh‘s inclusion highlights the paucity of quality spinners in the country. In 5 matches this season, the off-spinner took 16 wickets at 32.25. Is that what it takes to get into the team these days? Guys like Bishan Singh Bedi and Erapalli Prasanna would have a hard time making sense of that. We do too. The squad already has three spinners — R Ashwin, P Ojha and Ravindra Jadeja (spin-bowling allrounder). Do we really need a fourth spinner? Do we really need a badly out-of-form spinner just because he has a good past record against Australia? Yes, there was a series in which he took 32 wickets @ 17.03 but that was way back in 2000-01 season. In the last series in 2010-11, he took 11 wickets @ 33.18. So come again, why is he in the team?
He was already part of the squad. But surely for a series in India, one doesn’t need three openers in the team. Vijay got a century (116) in the first innings of the Irani Cup game for Rest of India against Mumbai but do have a look at his Ranji record too: 5 matches, 8 innings, 138 runs, HI 42, average of 17.25. His technique against the moving ball remains suspect and against Australia, he can expect a lot of that. Will he be up to the challenge?
This would have surprised Dhawan too. He had a decent Ranji season… certainly much better than Vijay’s — 7 matches, 461 runs at an average of 51.22. But then compare the numbers to Wasim Jaffer and you will know why he should be surprised. In exactly the same number of matches, Jaffer scored 835 runs at an average of 75.90 and then chipped in with a couple more centuries in the KO rounds to help Mumbai win the Ranji Trophy. So why hasn’t Jaffer got the nod? If it’s the Irani Cup, then Jaffer has helped himself to an 80 and a century in the same match. Also given Raina’s form in the ODIs, it might have been tempting to give him a go. Rahane has seemed more than a tad out of touch.
It’s hard to question this decision on face value. Bhuvneshwar has been exceptional in the ODIs for India. He swings the ball both ways and has shown that he has the ability to think out batsmen in the shorter format. Plus there have been times when Bhuvneshwar has bowled his full quota of ten overs in one go. So how will he be against the Australians? Why wasn’t he given a go in the Irani Cup? Is a fit Sreesanth a better option? Can he lead the attack if Ishant Sharma gets injured?