Even though India’s rise as one of the superpowers in world cricket has been undeniable, pundits have been left bamboozled by some of the decisions made by Indian Boards, Selection Committees or the Team Managements over the period of time that witnessed such meteoric rise. Such foolhardiness has become more of a commonplace in the recent years, adding fuel to the factors behind the fact that India has not touched any ICC Trophy in over a decade.
When the maverick showstopper Yuvraj Singh was dropped from the squad for 2015 World Cup, many had raised eyebrows. Critics frowned when they saw the name of Stuart Binny in the squad. But none complained. Everyone was hoping that it must have been another brilliant idea from the Captain Cool who had definitely some meatier plans in the stockroom. Whatever that was, it bombed. That killer intent was missing in India’s games and eventually India was disgracefully ousted by the mighty Aussies by 95 runs in the semifinal. How did they reach the semifinal if the X-factor was missing so badly? Well, the Dhoni brigade won matches against easier opponents like West Indies, Bangladesh, Ireland, Zimbabwe, UAE and was never actually tested before the semifinal loss. The Aussies eventually went on to lift the trophy that year.
The 2017 Champions Trophy was another classical scenario where India’s tryst with experiments failed. For some strange reasons, an ageing Yuvi found a place back in the squad this time while in-form Robin Uthappa, Jaydev Unadkat were ignored unreasonably. And for some strange reasons, below average Kedar Yadav was still finding a place in the squad. The result was inevitable. The men in blue were unceremoniously defeated by Pakistan by a margin of 180 runs. India continued playing with three spinners on the English soil as Mohammad Shami was warming the reserve bench. The spinning trio gave away 180 runs in 21 overs !
Situation was even worse in 2019 World Cup. India had been experimenting for almost a year and a half for the lineup to be played in the world cup and the experiments led to the theorem that Ambati Rayadu was the fittest to play in the second down. It was almost certain that Khalil Ahmed would be picked as the fourth pacer option. However, none of them finally found a place in the squad. Instead, the selectors surprised everyone by including Vijay Shankar in the squad. The reason cited for his selection was funnier than his cricketing abilities- He added 3D options in the squad. How ludicrous it might have sounded, none of the senior players including Dhoni, Virat or Rohit objected. And that was the sad end of the international career of someone as immensely talented as Ambati Rayadu. Khalil Ahmed who was being continuously included in the squad prior to that, never found his way back for the national duty. Strange, sad yet true.
The reasons why Srikar Bharat has been continuously favored as the wicketkeeper of choice for the national team are known to our great selectors only. I mean, come on ! You have so many options out there. There can be at least five other options in the present context who can be temporary replacements for Pant. But Srikar Bharat does not come logically if the options are stretched to ten. Does he add regional balance in the squad? Okay, give me a break. You don’t play in the WTC final for political appeasement. The reason why India opted to bat second is another area of concern for a cricket aficionado. Are these decisions taken in the right minds or do we want to defeat the mighty Aussies just by shock values and gimmicks? This is another final and the scenario is as bleak as in 2003 when we had lost to the same opponent because of some foolish decisions. Remember, even on that occasion we opted to bat second after winning the toss for some reasons incomprehensible by any logical person. What lies ahead this time? Keeping my fingers crossed.