As the Indian cricket team tries to recover from the disappointments of the Asia Cup, T20 World Cup and the ODI series defeat to Bangladesh, they have a few issues to address. The one that is right at the top of everyone’s head is the rising number of injury concerns. A plethora of top Indian cricketers – Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, Rohit Sharma, Deepak Chahar, Mohammed Shami – are currently sidelined due to respective injuries indefinitely, and the absence of some of them has cost India big time.
But in there is another concern that requires immediate attention is India’s team combinations. With so many options available, it is clear that the management is spoilt for choices, but the problem of plenty as it is famously called, has its own perils. For example, at the T20 World Cup, India did not budge from their stance and left their premier leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal out of all matches.
The decision was criticized given how leg-spinners from other nations such as Shadab Khan and Adil Rashid tasted huge success and were standout performers for Pakistan and England respectively. Instead, India went ahead of R Ashwin, hoping that he will offer more with the bat. And while he did on a couple of occasions, the decision to play Chahal ahead of Ashwin will always be frowned upon by the majority.
Which brings us to the question. What are the criteria for selection. Does the management pick players who are genuinely good bowlers or those who can also contribute with the bat. With Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja being India’s two premier all-rounders, do we need more? In 2011, when India won the World Cup, the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina and Sachin Tendulkar could all roll their arms over. But today, the utility all-rounders have gone missing. Veteran India spinner Amit Mishra weighed in on the topic and feels that the team should outline bowlers more for their bowling skills rather than their ability to chip in with the bat.
“It’s absolutely true. I had once raised this topic but they silenced me. Picking a bowler on the assumption that he will bat and score runs is no benchmark for an all-rounder. How many all-rounders do India have? You say that we have Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja who bowls and bats both. Ashwin too can bat and as can Axar Patel. How many all-rounders do you need?” Mishra said on Sports Tak.
“Every team has 2 all-rounders along with part-time bowlers and a main leg-spinner who can take wickets. Bowlers win you matches. Till the time you don’t take wickets, how will you win a match? Even if you score 300 runs, but if you don’t have wicket-taking and main bowlers, there is no way you can win a game.”
Mishra said he was surprised to see Chahal not getting a single game, with Ashwin getting preferred over him. The leg-spinner has now missed playing back-to-back T20 World Cups, with India severely underperforming with both. Mishra added that he understood that giving Chahal a game straightaway in the semi-final would have been a big gamble, but he reckons he should have been part of the Playing XI in at least a couple of earlier games – such as the ones against Zimbabwe and The Netherlands.
“I was a little surprised. They should have made him play at least 1-2 matches. I’m not saying that thrust him into the XI straightaway in the final or the semifinal, but had they given you a chance, they could have seen how he is bowling – the rhythm and all. They could have figured if he could have been a good option for them. Playing him previously was important,” he said.
“Whenever a leg-spinner or a wrist-spinner plays, he is your wicket-taker. The shorter the format, the higher are the chances of picking wickets. If Chahal had played and given you 3/40, that would have changed the mindset.”