The new selection panel played it safe
With the new BCCI selection panel headed by Sandeep Patil some bold moves were expected, but on Monday the committee chose the safe path. Why they did it can be best answered by the 'few good men' in charge.
Prior to the team selection a few senior members of the Indian team feared the axe and they did everything to earn some brownie points by featuring in round one of the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy.
The 15-member squad picked for the first two Tests against England has no new element, but a few tweaks here and there. Gautam Gambhir should consider himself lucky to get a berth considering his poor run with the bat in the recent past. Though the left-hander did his best to impress and get back into form by playing in Ghaziabad in Delhi's opening Ranji game against Uttar Pradesh, he managed scores of 32 and 47. Now Suresh Raina must be thinking what he did wrong.
Same was the case with Virender Sehwag, though he scored a timely century, batting with an injured finger, on selection day to retain his place. Another player who also got the benefit of doubt was Zaheer Khan. The problem with him of late has not been his form but his fitness. In Mumbai's Ranji match against Railways Zaheer bowled 20.5 overs and took one wicket before he limped off the field with what seemed to be a serious groin injury. He didn't take the field later on, but was seen running in to bowl few overs under the watchful eyes of Mumbai trainer Amogh Pandit and NCA physio Ashish Kaushik, which appeared to be a fitness test to confirm his availability for the first two Tests.
Here the selectors missed the plot by picking up Zaheer, who has a history of picking up niggles in the middle of a match. What if it flairs up during the first Test in Ahmedabad? Secondly, including Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay as reserve openers makes little sense. Both of them are unlike to play in Ahmedabad, and can only get a chance in Mumbai if either Gambhir or Sehwag fail.
The selectors could have waited till the two Tests than picking up Rahane and Vijay and given the spots to Manoj Tiwary or Robin Bist, who have been waiting for long in the wings. Tiwary got a hundred in the warm-up game against England and Bist has been consistent with the bat since the last domestic season. The selection of Rahane and Vijay looks to go wasted and could have done a world of good for the other two players.
Another player who got the cushion of comfort for being an experienced player was Ishant Sharma. The lanky fast bowler has given some decent performances in first-class matches after his return from an injury layoff. Ashok Dinda should consider himself tad unlucky after his exploits in the Duleep Trophy. The selection of Harbhajan Singh as a third spinner also raises questions because it is very unlikely that India would play three spinners and MS Dhoni's first choice would be R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha.
In the first assignment, the Patil-led selection committee went their predecessor's way and played it safe to avoid criticism. When they took office last month, everybody expected or rather wanted them to bring in some change with the selection process, but alas that didn't happen.