Because of injury and the need to rest key players , the Indian teams for the tour of the West Indies have several new faces . The teams for the Tests and the ODI’s are as follows :
Test squad: MS Dhoni (capt), VVS Laxman (vc), M Vijay, Abhinav Mukund, Rahul Dravid, Virat Kohli, S Badrinath, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel.
Limited-overs squad: Suresh Raina (capt), R Ashwin, S Badrinath, Harbhajan Singh (vc), Virat Kohli, Praveen Kumar, Amit Mishra, Munaf Patel, Parthiv Patel (wk), Yusuf Pathan, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Vinay Kumar, Manoj Tiwary, Shikhar Dhawan.
As usual , there are those who are unhappy that their favorites have not been chosen and others who mutter darkly that Kris Srikkanth is loading the team with players from Tamil Nadu . However , fair-minded observers will have to agree that , given the injuries and absentees , this is just about the best team that could have been picked . I , for one , am excited to see how these new faces perform abroad. After all , in just a short time , several of the seniors will not be around ; these newcomers are the hope of the future.
To recap , Yuvraj Singh ( respiratory ailment) , Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir ( shoulder injuries) and Sachin Tendulkar ( family obligations) will miss the entire tour , both Tests and ODI’s . Cheteshwar Pujara who might have staked a claim to a place in the Test side has also been side-lined by injury.Under the circumstances , I have no quarrel with any of the Test selections . The first choice playing XI will probably be … M.Vijay , Abhinav Mukund , Rahul Dravid , Virat Kohli , S.Badrinath , V.V.S. Laxman , M.S.Dhoni , Harbhajan Singh , Zaheer Khan , S.Sreesanth and Munaf Patel. The only uncertainty is whether Suresh Raina will edge out S. Badrinath . I hope Badrinath makes it into the final XI ; he’s been in the wings for too long.Raina had his chances in S.Africa but did not capitalise on them.
Dhoni is being rested for the ODI’s and a good thing it is too . He has been playing cricket almost non-stop and has done duty in many capacities , wicket keeper/ batsman / captain . He needs the rest and it will be an opportunity for Raina to show his mettle . My only reservation about the squad is the inclusion of Rohit Sharma . He’s been given chances galore but all his promise has not transalated into performance. I think the selectors should have jettisoned him and looked at someone else , perhaps Ajinkya Rahane. Except for that one aberration , I think the selectors have done a fine job blooding youngsters such as Manoj Tiwary and Shikhar Dhawan. I’m glad to see R.Ashwin get his chance ; he’s an intelligent bowler who will replace Harbhajan Singh before too long.
While the selectors have done the best with who is available it is disquieting to see the lack of pace bowlers and the dearth of new talent in that department. Zaheer Khan has had a long and distinguished career but he is getting on in years and cannot be counted on for much longer . Ishant Sharma , who at one time looked to be the star of the future , has fallen off in pace , perhaps the victim of early success and Sreesanth , for all his talent , is a loose cannon . India is well stocked with medium pacers for the ODI’s where accuracy is more important than sheer pace but we lack a real strike bowler at the Test level , a deficiency that can only get worse when Zaheer Khan retires.Oh, well !
Duncan Fletcher’s appointment as coach of the Indian team took me , and many others , by surprise.After Gary Kirsten’s success , one had thought that the new coach would be in the same mold ; low-key , self effacing and content to work behind the scenes.New Zealand’s Stephen Fleming seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Fletcher’s bona fides are above reproach as evidenced by the success he had with a previously mediocre England team that he guided to a famous Ashes triumph in 2005. The worries are more about his style of leadership. In the past he has been dictatorial in his dealings with players, an approach that does not work well in India as Greg Chappell found out .Unlike the English squad of six years ago , this Indian team is loaded with seniors , is the No. 1 Test side and is fresh off a stirring World Cup victory.
That said , it is heartening that Fletcher was recommended for the job by none other than Gary Kirsten , his former protegé. No doubt , Kirsten has told him what works best in the cauldron that is Indian cricket. It’s also good to know that Fletcher is highly rated by former England captains , Michael Vaughan and Nasser Hussain , and that he will be working with a terrific captain in M.S. Dhoni.With his unquestioned smarts and his eye for talent , Fletcher can perhaps replicate Gary Kirsten’s success and keep India on top in the years to come .
Once again , Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev have come out strongly against the appointment of a foreign coach with Gavaskar saying that since most of the players are from Hindi -speaking areas , an Indian coach such as Mohinder Amarnath would have been better able to communicate with the players . I’m tired of such jingoistic nonsense . If I remember right , Ajit Wadekar was similarly critical when Gary Kirsten was chosen as coach four years ago . ( I don’t recall him ever retracting his words when Kirsten met with such tremendous success) . Gavaskar and Kapil were both great players but their constant championing of an Indian coach, any Indian coach, is infuriating . They would do well to remember that India’s success began with the appointment of John Wright , suffered a brief hiccup with Greg Chappell , and reached full fruition with Gary Kirsten . At some point , no doubt, an Indian will be selected to coach the Indian team but it should be on the basis of ability , not on nationality .