CHENNAI: Three days on the field. Three big totals. Three matches lost. Series gone before a winning combination is found. Team director Ravi Shastri might call it a pointless tour when the team returns to India (he said the tri-series before World Cup was a waste of energy), but this outing hands India some harsh realities. Batting, especially at the death. But that would be the least of concerns for MS Dhoni.
For all you know, Dhoni might grow a few more grey hair each time he thinks about how to win the World T20 at home with this bowling line-up. Pacers went to Australia hoping conditions would assist them. Instead, they got flat wickets, not very different from those they get back home. Even Australian bowlers conceded plenty in all three ODIs. However, it was not even their second-string attack. No Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Nathan Lyon. Barring James Faulkner, none of their bowlers had played more than 20 ODIs. Between Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja, they have 227 caps.
At the post-match press conference, Dhoni called them “inexperienced.” Further, he didn’t even want to comment on seam-bowling all-rounders. “We don’t have a seaming all-rounder. So let’s not get to that topic. If you see this series, it’s a relatively inexperienced bowling line-up. Ishant has played a lot, but not been consistently part of this format. Umesh has been on and off and there are others who made debuts here. We’ve to assess how good the individuals are, what they’re doing and what’s their rate of development.”
To an extent, Dhoni was right in calling Ishant and Umesh inexperienced. Shane Warne had famously said about Monty Panesar that the left-armer had played one Test 33 times! For Ishant and Umesh, this was their fourth and third tour Down Under, respectively. They still appear like rabbits caught in a headlight. “We need to take a stock of our bowling. It’s not just pacers, even spinners are struggling. Over the last five years, there hasn’t been a talent to catch the eye. It’s the same set of bowlers we’re trying out without much to take home. In batting at least we find someone scoring big, but bowling is getting weaker by the day,” former chief selector Kiran More told Express.
What should worry selectors is the fact how Dhoni is still looking for a seam-bowling all-rounder after being given the options of Stuart Binny and Rishi Dhawan. He said it would be tough for Rishi to bowl under fielding restrictions and didn’t expect him to bowl dot balls. Then, why select a player the captain doesn’t trust becomes another story.
“To be fair to the selectors, they’ve given Dhoni the best team. Maybe the team is a batsman short. If we look at our fast bowling, there isn’t much to choose from. Varun Aaron, Ishwar Pandey and Mohit Sharma haven’t reached a stage where they’re consistent. The best option is to go with what you have than look elsewhere,” said Raja Venkat, who was a selector when India won the World Cup in 2011.
On one hand, Dhoni wants a seam-bowling all-rounder, but given options, he rarely trusts them. It might be a cryptic message to the selectors, but done at the expense of desired result.
“We’ve lacked planning for sometime now. This isn’t a one-off. Dhoni and the selectors don’t seem to be on the same page. We need a change of thinking at the top. The traits that made Dhoni the captain are no more visible and he has never been the best judge of talent. Selectors can’t go on with a player when captain openly criticises an option they named,” said former India spinner Maninder Singh.