It is time for desserts, sweets and ice creams. A team of young and enthusiastic chefs who are specialists in these items are being flown in to appease those who are disappointed with the quality and taste of their main course prepared by some expert chefs renowned for their tasty main course. The management and admirers of these chefs look bewildered and they pin their hope on this new team to deliver quality and tasty food in their frantic efforts to restore their shattered pride. Can tasty desserts make people forget their horrible main course?
This was the dilemma plaguing the BCCI and their selectors when they selected a team for the two T20s and eight ODIs involving Australia and Sri Lanka. The team selected looks a perfect blend of youth and experience. The baffling part of Indian cricket is the fact that a few cricketers are allowed to pick and choose their matches and tours while the others will be picked and chosen as per the whimsies and fantasies of the selectors. 39 year old Sachin Tendulkar included in the squad as he made himself available while the promising Ajinkya Rahane thrown out. Zaheer Khan is back. Sehwag included despite his horrible form. Are these three going to play any part in the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand? Have not the selectors squandered a wonderful opportunity to blood at least three youngsters in these testing conditions and build a nucleus for the 2015 World Cup team? Debate can go on but nothing more can be expected from this selection panel whose decisions have been criticized and questioned in every nook and corner of the country after the continuous Test debacles outside the subcontinent.
Though Sri Lanka is the third nation in the triangular tournament, they cannot be ignored as a weak opposition considering the fact that they are coming after a tough tour of South Africa. Their players will be better accustomed to the bouncy pitches than the Indian players who were either injured or playing Ranji Trophy matches in the dust bowls in India. Australians are well planned as usual and will be a tough nut to crack in their home conditions. This gives a picture of the tough task ahead for the current World Champions to conquer Australia.
In the big grounds in Australia, Dhoni’s captaincy skills are going to be tested. Athletic fielders like Raina, Jadeja, Kohli, Tiwary and Rohit need to be placed tactically to contain the runs. Running between the wickets will have to be improved. Suresh Raina’s vulnerability to short pitched bowling will be exploited. With Sehwag and Gambhir not in good form, there is every chance of the middle order getting exposed to the swing and bounce of the two new balls from both ends. The selectors seem to have anticipated this problem and their decision to include Parthiv Patel as a reserve keeper is a testimony for that.
The two new balls from both ends will surely play a decisive role in Australia than in India. Will the ageing Tendulkar survive the rigors of an ODI series with the new rule not permitting runners? Umesh’s performance in the Test series has clearly proved what extra pace can do in Australia. With Ishant and Varun unavailable, the selectors could have included Ashok Dinda in place of Vinay Kumar for his speed. In Vinay, Praveen and Irfan, India has 3 similar bowlers and the Australians gave a glimpse of what to expect from Vinay Kumar by the way they treated him in the WACA Test.
The Indian selectors have again selected a ‘strong on paper’ team more suited for Indian conditions like they did for the Tests but unlike the Test team, this team has some characters who can give a fight to the opposition. Praveen Kumar coming back after an injury, Irfan making a come back, Sachin and Zaheer having question marks on their ODI fitness, Dhoni, Sehwag, Gambhir and Vinay Kumar low on confidence, the Indian team management needs to get the right combination from the day one to make their presence felt in Australia.
Some bold decisions will need to be taken and some youngsters will need to be persisted. Umesh Yadav needs to be handled with care and it is a pity that there is no fast bowler in this team to replace or support Umesh. This Indian ODI team does not inspire confidence and optimism in the Australian conditions and I foresee the Indian top order batting and medium pace bowling creating more headaches than other areas in the coming days. Let us wait and watch.