08 July 2008

Quick office reflections on the test squad

I have not blogged here for an inordinately long time. Combination of factors. Can't say work, though it has contributed. Boredom too, to a large extent, with the endless cricket being played out everywhere. I missed switch-hits, Collingwood's ethical diemma and subsequent just desserts, Zimbabwe, CWB in the Wisden, Ajantha Mendis... basically a load of crap. Or that is how I have been thinking, and it is a reflection of the direction in which cricket is heading - when a confirmed cricketaholic starts thinking this way..

Anyway, chuck all that..

Once again, there are not too many surprises in the selection of the Test squad. With most of the team selecting itself, the only points of contention concerened Jaffer and the reserve batsman. Jaffer, a giant of the domestic game, has not captured the same kind of rhythm internationally. Yuvraj Singh, a giant of the one-day game, has not been able to utilize his outrageous talent in the Test arena with any kind of consistency. The question before the selectors was first, whether to let matters drift and allow Jaffer and Yuvraj another shot in the squad. Secondly, if not them, then who?

In Yuvraj's case, it did not make sense to carry him along in the squad. Only an injury to any of the top and middle order would allow him into the side. With Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman very well rested, the chances of Yuvraj spending some time in the middle were close to nil, and it made more sense to send in someone who had more to gain from spending time in the same dressing room as Laxman, Dravid, Dada and Kumble. Rohit Sharma was an obvious candidate, though Badri's fans will claim that the Tamil Nadu domestic colossus continues to be ignored. Fair to say though, that Sharma was quite clearly ahead in the pecking order, having seen success in the one-day game. Such an argument does not sit easily (even when Veeru was dropped after the SA tour, there was the whole problem of using ODI form to measure Test selectability), and Badri's backers will cry until they are hoarse that his game is more suited to the longer version than Sharma's or Raina's.

In Jaffer's case, the selector's had to make a decision of greater importance. On the cards was a clean break with the past. With DK no longer in contention for the opener spot (unless India play Irfan as the fifth bowling option), Jaffer's departure signals the end of the opening combination that made gains in England. With Gambhir coming in, two men who have walked out together innumerable times for Delhi and for India, will do so again. It is not difficult to feel sorry for Jaffer, but the hopeless waft outside off has to leave his game. But more than Jaffer's shortcomings, it is Gambhir's incredible hunger for runs that has seen him make this comeback.

In the bowling department, Zak, Arpy and Ishant can be an uncomfortable three-card trick. My guess is that Zak and Ishant will get picked first, with Ganguly chipping in with a few overs. But on heartbreakingly benign Lankan tracks, the backup would be crucial. Sreesanth misses out and it is not clear if injury is the reason, and Munaf makes the cut. Kumble and the recently shamed Harbhajan will do the bulk of the bowling. Piyush misses out and in comes Ojha the left arm spinner. In case we decide to carry three spinners, there is great variety that might just make up for the lack of bite in Harbhajan's bowling, or the lack of experience in Pragyan's. However, we need to consider Murali Kartik for a moment. After years of being in the shadow of Kumble and Harbhajan, it is one of his own kind that has upstaged him this time. The question of pecking order, that is crucial to Rohit's presence in the squad today, is probably meaningless to Kartik now.

Finally, does Dhoni backing out mean anything more than a stopgap arrangement for DK or Parthiv? I would assume that DK gets to be in the team ahead of Parthiv, and if he is able to play Mendis and Murali with authority, the selectors would be in a spot - and might have to consider a situation where the vice-captain is not able to find a place in the squad. Dhoni who is now one of the most consistent ODI batsmen, has not set the world alight with his recent performaces in Tests.

Irfan gets dropped as well, which after his horrendous run in the Asia Cup should not come as a surprise for many. On the other hand, his Test form has not been too bad of late, if we would just cast our minds at the last two Test matches in Austalia. What is clear is that in the subcontinent, once the ball stops swinging, he finds it difficult to pick wickets. What we will miss though, is the option of playing five bowlers.

13 comments:

Jrod said...

I can't believe i got loaded in with the crap.

John said...

Apologies, JRod.. didnt mean it to come out that way...
On the other hand, you share a sentence with Collingwood and Mendis.

Q said...

CWB in the Wisden - that has to be the best highlight of the cricketing calendar thus far.

Almost all of the Indian blogs hve mentioned this boredom of cricket, too much cricket and so on... Im not sure why. Its been amazing.

Straight Point said...

welcome on board john...

in keeping with my newly fond love of being controversial of late ;-)

i will not pick gg at least for first test...here is why...

jack is coming after long layoff and we are not certain about his fitness...ishant is clearly showing sighs of workload since his debut...subcontinent conditions...

so i will go with 3p+2s+1w+5b combination with DK opening with sehwag...

John said...

Q, the point is I rarely enjoy sport if there is not a context, if the stakes aren't high... So the IPL made a lot of sense to me...

Even though I'd have appreciated it more if it had been a shorter tournament, the fact that there was a vital (arguably) trophy at stake, made things not only bearable, but follower-worthy.

But c'mon!!Kitply Cup?? WTF??? The Asia Cup is by no means a vital trophy - cannot be compared to the importance that the Euro holds in the minds of European footballers and supporters... I bet nobody except the most hardened fanatics can name the number of Asia Cups won by India, Pak and SL.

SP,
Good point strategically. Question is if Zak and Ishant should be playing if they're not near 100%?

Q said...

I guess im a hardcore fanatic then.

I mentioned elsewhere that even today there r days when there is no cricket on TV. I wish for no such days :-)

John said...

Q,
The solution is to get domestic cricket in some countries to a level where we can enjoy it on TV if we want - I enjoy watching Aussie domestic sometimes and Indian too. Instead of watching the same people play the same people, over and over and over again.

Q said...

But John, the same people playing over and over again each time produced different results.

India and Pakistan played 4 ODIs during last month - each match had a different story in itself...

Maybe its just me but for 2 decades now I've found something different that appeals to me in each crkt game that takes place...

I do believe there are others like me around the world, thats why the games go on the way they do.

Mind you, the only ones complaining of too much cricket and being bored of it are Indians - both players and fans ;-)

Neno Cricket said...

wellcome back john on cricketing issues.....

i hope to go out of india and go there where no one know cricket......

added you in blogroll

Soulberry said...

I'm impressed with the selectors this time around. Thoroughly professional and completely tuned-in.

I too would imagine GG sits out if five bowlers are the way forward in Lanka.

Completely endorse and empathize with the asthenia induced by just too much to say of the same thing from all around the world and in a very brief period. The simple fun of talking about it is lost.

Bravo UJ...the official CWB book is what I'm waiting for.

Jrod said...

You know who would never name me in a sentence with Paul Collingwood.

Do you like to fight injustice?

Yes, that is truly an exceptional quality you have.

Please sign the Save our Bill Lawry petition to keep the Corporate vultures from ending the career of our favourite excitable one.

Think of the children.

Samir Chopra said...

Someone please tell me that Munaf Patel is not in contention for a place in the Indian XI.

John said...

Thanks, Neno.

Soulberry, where've you been?? Missed the wisdom!

Samir, Munaf just happens to be fifth in the pecking order, having just climed one over Irfan.. So I think he'll sit out.