Considering experience, ability and conditions, decision to leave out Bhuvneshwar appears to be the correct one India have, like other major teams, realised that keeping players in suspense till the morning of a match makes little sense and announced their 12 for the first Test at Adelaide a day in advance. No eleven can satisfy all and so will this one. Twitter was agog within minutes of the announcement and fans have plenty to talk about.
It is never easy to select bowlers in particular, when everyone has something special about him. Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah have been picked for the three pace slots. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s fans are miffed. If Bhuvneshwar has the ability to swing and get breakthroughs, Ishant has experience of bowling on Australian pitches. Of late, the veteran has made adjustments to his line and length to become indispensable.
Who else can Bhuvneshwar replace? Shami is easily the best Test bowler, with the new ball or old. Bumrah is Kohli’s go-to man. Umesh Yadav, the fastest among the pacers, has no place unless India go in with four quicks.It is not only pace.
Not many are happy with the choice of Ravichandran Ashwin ahead of Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav. It is not easy to convince the twitterati that the off-spinner has been picked keeping in view the four left-handers — Usman Khawaja, Marcus Harris, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head — in Australia’s batting line-up for Adelaide.
Of course, someone has piped up to say Hanuma Vihari is there to bowl off-spin, citing the three wickets he took at the Oval. But that will be a ridiculous argument to drop Ashwin and pick Jadeja or Kuldeep.
Not that all batsmen pick themselves. The injury to Prithvi Shaw could not have come at an inopportune time. That left Murali Vijay and Lokesh Rahul needing one good knock in the warm-up game. Vijay got a hundred and Rahul 60-odd to satisfy the tour selectors.
The debate is not over. Who will bat at No 6? Here again the sympathies are with Vihari as he can chip in with a few overs to give the fast bowlers some rest. Then there is a school of thought that thinks Rohit Sharma should bat at 6 and he should be asked to bat freely as he would be batting when the bowlers are tiring. It is also argued that Rohit can bowl since he started his career as an off-spinner! If Vihari made 56 in one of the innings in his only Test, Rohit’s last innings in South Africa was of 48. It will not be an easy decision for skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri.
Then the question of playing five bowlers, if India have to go in with a positive mind and think of winning. Overseas, it is batting that has let the team down, not bowlers. Both in South Africa and in England the bowlers did their job and batsmen could not even get to reasonable targets in the fourth innings.
Even the Australians have not picked Mitchell Marsh for all his potential of being the fifth bowler plus batting in the middle order, the reason being his batting has been inconsistent. So they have picked a batsman on form and will make do with four bowlers against India’s best suit, batting.
Teams playing at home think four of their best bowlers can do the job whereas Kohli plays five bowlers at home where Ashwin, Jadeja and Rishabh Pant could get you big runs. At the end of it all, it is the team that seizes the opportunities gets on top.(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and views expressed are personal. He can be reached at email@example.com)