Now that the India Test team is playing in familiar home surroundings, the focus has shifted to the 2019 World Cup in England. Suddenly there appears to be three vacancies in the middle-order, and there are more than one claimant each for No 4, 5 and 6. Some add the socalled finisher’s position, No 7. The selectors and team management have to be on the same page while looking for the right men. In the last year or so, they have tried out quite a few players, but they could not come to an understanding on the talent and temperament of those tried out.
We are back to the argument that if a team has to lose, then why not do it with youngsters who will at least utilise the opportunity to gain experience. For instance, take the ODI side. In an attempt to give the tested ones first preference, someone like Rishabh Pant had to miss out on the Asia Cup. After watching the Delhi wicketkeeper- batsman get his hundred in the Oval Test and a near one against West Indies last week, it is certain that he plays in the same dashing way in all three formats. To add to the selectors’ headache, Prithvi Shaw has also scored his debut hundred in Rajkot in double quick time, and he will also be a contender for the opening slot.
KL Rahul is languishing, not knowing whether he is the third opener or not. If Shaw also forces his way in, then it is going to be mayhem at the top of the order, with Mayank Agarwal already waiting to open in all formats. There are already murmurs. Some players have not been able to resist replying to questions about their absence in the team.
They want national selectors or the team management to tell them what’s wrong with their game and what they should do to regain their places. No one knows better about player treatment than Rohit Sharma. He lost his Test spot even after scoring 40-odd in his last Test innings against South Africa because of a lack of consistency.
Nobody likes to be dropped, as it is not easy to regain his place in the present India team. Rohit is even willing to open the innings in Tests if he can get into the team. Rohit is right. Players would like to feel safe and settled so they can play freely without worrying about the next game.
Even the incoming player will have the same feeling as the one who is making way for him. These days there are regular India A tours for a player to show his form. Decades ago, players had a tough time going back to Ranji Trophy to perform as they were not sure of the pitches they were going to play on. Mohinder Amarnath, who once called national selectors “jokers”, was livid when he had to play a Ranji match on a treacherous pitch at Vaish College Ground in Rohtak to get back into the Test side. He wondered who would be responsible if he had broken a bone while batting on such a track.
The selectors and former players who act as media pundits have again started talking of MS Dhoni’s utility to the team as a batsman or finisher, as if that was his only job. The commentators agree that he is still the best man with gloves, but they are not happy with his batting. It is inconceivable to think that Virat Kohli will let Dhoni go all that easily. He knows his predecessor’s immense value to the team, standing behind the stumps. Even bowlers vouch for his vital inputs.
(The writer is a veteran commentator and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at email@example.com)