Team India’s performance against South Africa in the 1st Test of the three-match series has come under scrutiny. It is being observed that picking a Test squad is rather tricky. Former cricketer Aakash Chopra has posed some serious questions which affect the series’ final outcome. Whether the team combination should have more importance than the individuals, and should there be a consideration of player history over current form, are the major queries.
Former India cricketer-turned-commentator, Aakash Chopra, opened up about Team India’s selection conundrums, and spoke about the yardsticks that are to be kept in mind while finalising a Test squad.
Team India’s selection woes
Considering India’s excellent run in the past year, it seemed that finalising the playing XI would be easy. However, what ensued in the 1st Test in Cape Town pointed that the reality was far from the presumption. India chose to have only 5 batsmen, with the additional Hardik Pandya coming in as an all-rounder.
And that wasn’t the only difficult decision that the team management had to make. The selectors picked Shikhar Dhawan over KL Rahul, and Rohit Sharma over Ajinkya Rahane. On top of these experiments, India handed a debut cap to Jasprit Bumrah, implying that the star pacer of their home season, Umesh Yadav, would stay limited as a benchwarmer.
It was assumed that these boldly-taken decisions were based on infallible logic. However, Aakash Chopra feels that these decisions will be subjected to extensive scrutiny if India faces a disheartening loss.
Chopra weighed in the different questions that were hanging overhead the Indian team management. He said,
“The reason for bringing this up is to figure out what comes first. Does team composition based on the pitch take priority? Or is it about who can’t be dropped because of his last performance?”
Aakash Chopra spoke about how the selection of Hardik Pandya has turned out to be a mixed bag for Team India. He conceded that team combination weighed heavier than separate individuals and their traits. Chopra said,
“Leaving (Pandya) out would invite the wrath of supporters and experts. But playing him might mean compromising a combination that you might think is ideal for Centurion; one that is also best suited for the team after the twin batting failures. In my humble opinion, it should always be about the combination, for the pitch offered dictates that.”
According to Aakash Chopra, pitches that are like the one which was in Cape Town, demand an ideal combination of six batsmen. Chopra said that on a pitch which offers help to bowlers, it is practical to empower the batting unit. And if it is a flat pitch, then bowlers need to be bolstered. Chopra said,
“If you think that you need only four bowlers to take 20 wickets, playing an extra bowling option at the cost of a proper batsman isn’t recommended. Especially when your batting has failed twice.”
Aakash Chopra pointed out that when was dropped for the sake of right combination despite of scoring a triple-hundred, why did Team India not think about leaving out Pandya for the same reason. Chopra said,
“Back then, India felt the need for a fifth bowler on a flat Hyderabad pitch against Bangladesh. Retaining the spirit of the same logic, if the pitch at Centurion demands only four bowlers, the team shouldn’t hesitate in leaving Pandya out. If this team can leave out its vice-captain after only one poor series in his career, it also surely knows how to take unpopular calls.”
Aakash Chopra on Shikhar Dhawan’s inclusion
As Shikhar Dhawan has scored a bountiful runs in all three formats since the Champions Trophy, team selection is keen to test his ability to play overseas. But Dhawan’s quick dismissals in the first Test against the ‘Proteas’ have led to a sense of insecurity. Aakash Chopra said,
“Since it’s widely believed that Rahul is better equipped to handle pace, bounce and lateral movement in the air and off the surface, does he merit a place for the second Test? It’s important to remember that any corrective measures taken after the second Test might have no bearing on the outcome of this series.”
“It’s human to err, and if the management feels that they erred in judgment with regard to Dhawan for the first Test, they can surely make amends in the second, without thinking about how their decision will be construed by outsiders.”
Chopra concluded that there were no black and white solutions to these selection problems. He said that no matter what decisions the team would take, they would be subjected to criticisms if things don’t work out. He added,
“But that must not stop them (team management) from doing what they think is right, even if that means opting for a few more unpopular and brave decisions.”