1 Year, 3 Selection Faux Pas: Will BCCI Pull up Kohli-Shastri?
File photo of Indian captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri.
File photo of Indian captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri.(Photo: PTI)

1 Year, 3 Selection Faux Pas: Will BCCI Pull up Kohli-Shastri?

Who will bell the cat that is the Indian team management?

When something happens for the first time, you think it was an error and live with it hoping the same mistake will not be committed again. When the same error is committed a second time, it needs to be scrutinized, spoken about, admitted as an error and remedial measures need to be introduced. But when the same mistake is committed a third time, serious questions need to be asked and stern action needs to be taken on the erring party.

In the context of this piece, the erring party is not just one individual, but the whole bunch of individuals that comprise the team management – the captain, the vice-captain, the head coach, the assistant coaches (batting, bowling and fielding) and the selector(s) on tour. And the error or mistake we're referring to is Team India's repeated flawed selections.

Virat Kohli walks off after being dismissed in India’s second innings during the Perth Test against Australia.
Virat Kohli walks off after being dismissed in India’s second innings during the Perth Test against Australia.
(Photo: AP)

Also Read : Forget Virat’s Aggression, Question Poor Selection: Sandeep Patil

It happened in South Africa at the start of the year, then happened in England in the middle of the year, and most recently happened in the Perth Test. Common outcome: India lost Test matches because of ill-advised selections.

Perhaps influenced by all the pre-match hype about the pitch at the new Perth Stadium being as pacy and bouncy as the yesteryears surface at the neighbouring WACA Ground, the Indian team management chose to field four specialist quicks and did not include a specialist spinner in the XI for the second Test against Australia.

One would expect there would be at least one individual with the required wisdom and authority in the Indian camp to share an opinion that a specialist spinner should play in the XI.

What transpired? India did dismiss Australia twice, but there’s more to it. Umesh Yadav, the fourth pacer chosen in the playing XI, returned match figures of 2/139, while Hanuma Vihari – at best a relief bowler – returned figures of 2/84.

There's more: the lone spinner in the opposition ranks – Nathan Lyon – walked away with an 8-wicket haul.

You'd think the home team would know conditions better, and if they assessed that the pitch merited that they play a spinner in the XI, why didn't the Indian team read the surface that way?

On a pitch where India opted to field no proper spin-bowling option, Australia’s sole spinner Nathan Lyon returned match figures of 8/106.
On a pitch where India opted to field no proper spin-bowling option, Australia’s sole spinner Nathan Lyon returned match figures of 8/106.
(Photo: AP)

Also Read : Never Thought About The Spin Option: Virat Kohli

Yes there was live grass on the surface, but the sun beat down hard on the first two days – the mercury touching 39 degrees Celsius on the first day – and there were sufficient cracks on the pitch and enough rough created by the bowlers’ foot-marks.

How did the Indian team read the surface wrong? Speaking to the media the Indian captain Virat Kohli tried to justify the selection.

“We as a team didn't want to think that we definitely wanted to consider a spinning option on this pitch, especially having a look at the pitch on day one and how we thought it would play on the first three days, and it exactly played out that way. We thought a fast bowler is going to be more productive and more helpful for us as a team,” he said after his team’s 146-run loss.

“You obviously have two situations that you can think of. It’s a very tricky decision to make, what kind of a bowling option you want to go with or you want to think that that guy can contribute with the bat as well.”
Virat Kohli, after India’s loss at Perth
The Indian team management, especially coach Ravi Shastri and captain Virat Kohli, have come under scrutiny over selection calls in overseas Tests.
The Indian team management, especially coach Ravi Shastri and captain Virat Kohli, have come under scrutiny over selection calls in overseas Tests.
(Photo: AP)

Also Read : Assess Kohli, Shastri’s Roles if India Don’t Win Series: Gavaskar

“So eventually you come to one decision, and we backed that decision and went ahead with it. Whether it comes off or not, that's a different thing, but we were totally convinced in the team that that was our best combination to go with, and the batsmen have to take responsibility. There are lots of variables that can happen during the course of a cricket match but before that, you need to have clarity as to what you want to do. And as a side, we were totally clear that this was the combination we wanted to go with,” Kohli added.

Seen in isolation, one can pardon and ignore the poor selection. But this has happened a few times this year. So the questions to be asked are:

  1. Who is accountable and to be blamed for these shockingly poor selections?
  2. Who in the BCCI has the authority to demand explanations?

That's not all. Rishabh Pant needs to be put under the microscope and questions need to be asked about his one-gear, one-style method of playing.

On the final day at Perth, there was a Test match to be won or saved; yet, despite being the last recognised batsman, he played an aggressive stroke to be caught in the outfield. He's played similar aggressive stokes and been dismissed – most recently in the first T20I on this tour (a match India would've possibly gone on to win had he hung around and batted responsibly).

That he is only 21 years old and has barely played a handful of Test matches isn’t an acceptable reason: he is playing for the Indian Cricket Team, and fans deserve and expect better from him.
Rishabh Pant has been guilty of throwing his wicket in all four innings in Australia, with scores of 28, 25, 30 and 36.
Rishabh Pant has been guilty of throwing his wicket in all four innings in Australia, with scores of 28, 25, 30 and 36.
(Photo: AP)

Also Read : Twitter Questions Team India’s Selection as Aus Level Series

Finally, a spotlight on the physio and the team's medical staff for their handling of Prithvi Shaw's injury. Coach Ravi Shastri was quoted as saying at the end of the first day of the first Test, “He's already started walking. Hopefully if we can get him to him run a bit by the weekend, that's a really good sign.”

Asked about Shaw's chances of playing in the second or third Test matches, he added: “I would imagine so but you never know. He's young. Sometimes different people recover differently. With youth on his side, there might just be a case where he might recover [even] quicker. We'll take a call as and when we get closer to Perth.”

But for Shaw to be ruled out of the rest of the series, nearly a fortnight later – and days after he was seen knocking a ball – clearly someone got their initial assessments wrong.

Who is the individual to be held accountable for this mishandling of Shaw’s injury and it’s repercussions to the team’s selections? Had the initial evaluation of the injury been better, could the Indian selectors have flown another opener? Would he have performed better in Perth?

It is high time the Supreme Court evaluate the harm done to Indian cricket by the appointment of the Committee of Administrators. The need of the hour is for BCCI to have a strong individual at the helm; someone like Jagmohan Dalmiya, Sharad Pawar, N Srinivasan or Shashank Manohar. Can the SC please put such an authoritative administrator at the helm?

Also Read : After 7 Tests Aus Register a Win, Paine’s First One as a Captain

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