Followers of the game were surprised that the selection committee played it safe by retaining almost the same team
The selection of the Indian team for the Asia Cup in Bangladesh starting March 11 was awaited with anticipation. One expected that the five-man panel, headed by former Indian skipper Krishnamachari Srikkanth, would use the opportunity to give India a brand new combination in the light of the disastrous tour Down Under.
Playing it safe
But much to the surprise and chagrin of many keen followers of the game, the selection committee played it safe by retaining almost the same team that failed repeatedly during the two-month Australian tour, barring a few minor changes.
For instance, the in-form paceman, Ashok Dina of West Bengal, who was the highest wicket-taker in the last domestic season and the flamboyant Yusuf Pathan have been brought in.
Only Virender Sehwag was dropped, or rather ‘rested' as Srikkanth would like to call it and so were the injury-hit pace spearhead Zaheer Khan and UmeshYadav. But the rest of the failed bunch has kept their places, including maestro Sachin Tendulkar and skipper M.S. Dhoni.
It was an opportunity for the selectors to blood a new team, pack it with promising youngsters and “rest” all the seniors, as winning or losing the Asia Cup should not have a huge priority, given its status. What was needed was a futuristic vision to build India Next, that Srikkanth and co. clearly failed to address. Tendulkar was selected because he said that he was available for the tour, said Srikkanth. But should Tendulkar be given the option of picking the tour of his choice? For 30 long innings he has been chasing that elusive 100th 100 and he may get that in Bangladesh, but scoring a century on flat sub-continental track is not on a par with one that he could have scored Down Under.
Dhoni has been playing non-stop since the World Cup. Doesn't he deserve a “rest”? They could have asked Gambhir to lead the team in his place. The elevation of Virat Kohli as vice-captain indeed comes as a surprise and it seems more like a reward for his dream knock at Hobart, which saved India's blushes and re-kindled Indian hopes of a berth in the finals of the Commonwealth Bank tri-series. Kohli has a long career ahead of him and they could have given him that mantle after he gained more experience.
Pushed into a corner
Nevertheless, Kohli, who is coming of age as a batsman and UmeshYadav's emergence as a quality pace man were the positives for India on the tour. That apart, there were no gains for India and it was indeed a humiliating outing, where reports of rifts in the team made more news than their performance on the field.
Off field too, the Indians, according to reports, remained insular, hardly mingling with the fans or the media. Australia's former captain Steve Waugh lamented that this possibly being the last tour for Tendulkar, he could have been more accessible to media and fans instead of remaining incommunicado right through the tour. Other Aussie media persons were less charitable, calling Indians “a bunch of overpaid and over-aged prima donnas”. But there is hope, as the match in Hobart illustrated that Team India can rise to the challenge, when pushed into a corner. The problem was that such a performance remained a flash in the pan. India might as well win the cup in Dhaka and possibly everything would then be swept under the carpet. The IPL Season at home, will most probably be all hunky dory. However, they will get a rude awakening again during their next overseas tour to South Africa, unless corrective measures are taken by the BCCI.