January 20, 2008

Yet another stupid act by the BCCI

It has just been a day since India won the hard fought Perth test and the BCCI is back at doing what it does best- experimenting. The moment I heard that Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid had been left out of the Indian ODI squad for the tri-series involving them, Australia and Sri Lanka, I was shocked. Moreover, they also decided to leave out Murali Kartik from the squad and didn't even bother recalling V.V.S. Laxman. This, in my opinion is a big selection blunder that has been committed by the BCCI. Their alibi is that they want a youthful team that is energetic and consists of good fielders. I agree, that Ganguly hasn't been a remarkable fielder but what about Dravid? Isn't he a good fielder? Another important mistake is not picking Murali Kartik who spun India to victory against Australia by taking 6 wickets in the 7th ODI against Australia at Mumbai last October.

Dravid didn't play the 7th ODI against Australia and was left out of the ODI squad for the series against Pakistan as well. Though Dravid has a slow scoring rate, he isn't called Mr. Dependable for nothing. On the other hand, Ganguly was India's most successful ODI batsman last year scoring 1240 runs with an average of 45. He also took 7 wickets to go with his wonderful batting. He performed very well after making a comeback and was very good in England. He also played well against the Aussies when they toured India. He also had six partnerships of 100+ for the first wicket with Sachin Tendulkar in ODIS in 2007. The two also happen to be the most successful opening pair in ODI history. Ganguly will be really missed in the games against Sri Lanka as he has a brilliant record against them and is regarded by most cricket experts as the batsman who can play ace Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan the best. His wonderful knock of 183 against the Lankans at Taunton during the 1999 World Cup is regarded as one of the best knocks in ODI history. Incidentally, it was Dravid who was involved with a huge 318 run partnership for the 2nd wicket with Ganguly. Dravid scored a masterly 145 and both of them shared the man of the match award. The partnership between them was the first 300+ partneship in ODI history and was quite obviously the highest partnership for any wicket in ODIs at that time, a record which was broken at Hyderabad 6 months later when Tendulkar and Dravid put on 331 for the 2nd wicket against New Zealand. Tendulkar scored an unbeaten 186, the highest individual score by an Indian batsman (the record was held by Ganguly before this, when he scored 183 in the match mentioned before this) and Dravid stroked a classy 153. It really is surprising to see a player like Ganguly dropped when he is in such good form! The last time India played a ODI series in Australia was in early 2004, Laxman had scored 3 brilliant hundreds- 2 against Australia and 1 against Zimbabwe.

Coming in for Ganguly is Suresh Raina, who last played an ODI in January 2007. He doesn't have a very impressive record against Australia but is a good fielder. Piyush Chawla, who was impressive on last year's tour of England, gets the nod for the second spinner's spot ahead of Murali Kartik. Chawla was preferred because the selectors were of the opinion that a wrist-spinner would be handy on Australian pitches. It is believed that the captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, wanted to stick with a majority of the squad that won the inaugral ICC World Twenty20 last September. Explaining why Ganguly was overlooked, BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah said, "The emphasis was on fielding abilities and they (the team management) wanted a young fielding side for the series. That's why you see a lot of youngsters in the side." Well Mr. Shah, if you wanted a good fielder why not take Mohd. Kaif, he is also from the Uttar Pradesh Ranji team like Raina and is a brilliant fielder (probably one of the best in the world)? In fact, Kaif is the captain of the team and has played quite well in the domestic circuit.

India's fast-bowling attack will be led by R.P. Singh, Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth, who missed the Test series against Australia with a shoulder injury. Joining them will be Praveen Kumar, who played a ODI in the series against Pakistan. Zaheer Khan hasn't been considered as he is still recovering from the heel injury he got during the first test at Melbourne. The BCCI plans to send him to South Africa for treatment. Gautam Gambhir and Dinesh Karthik have also been included. Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan and Munaf have been placed on standby and will join the squad in case of any injuries.

I also feel that the BCCI made a big mistake by announcing the squad for the sole Twenty20 and the tri-series before the fourth test at Adelaide. It may divide the team and disturb the players a lot. News channel sources say that Ganguly and Dravid are highly disappointed at them being left out of the ODI team. Dravid was hoping to make the cut after having played well at Perth and Ganguly was reportedly shocked about the entire incident as he had a wonderful 2007. These 2 players need to keep their cool at Adelaide as they have a big role to play if India are to level the test series.

Chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar is under fire from many quarters after what I would call an extremely stupid decision. In fact, Navjot Singh Sidhu challenged Vengsarkar on NDTV's cricket talk show "Cricket Controversies". He said that if Vengsarkar can prove Ganguly's exclusion then he (Sidhu) would stop doing whatever he does to earn money. He also said that Raina's experience was nothing compared to Ganguly's and that if India has managed to survive in Australia, it is all because of Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman. He went on to say that dropping a player who scored 1200 odd runs in a calendar year amounts to sacrilege as it would not only affect the player psychologically but will also divide the team. It didn't there, Sidhu later said that the selectors didn't know how to treat its heroes. All this shows just how foolish the selectors have been. What needs to be seen is what they can do to counter this outcry.

Given below is the squad for the sole Twenty20 and the CB tri-series:

  • Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Captain and Wicket Keeper)
  • Sachin Tendulkar
  • Yuvraj Singh
  • Virender Sehwag
  • Dinesh Karthik
  • Robin Uthappa
  • Gautam Gambhir
  • Suresh Raina
  • Rohit Sharma
  • Irfan Pathan
  • Praveen Kumar
  • Ishant Sharma
  • S. Sreesanth
  • Harbhajan Singh
  • Piyush Chawla
  • Manoj Tiwary
  • Yusuf Pathan
  • Munaf Patel

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