MUMBAI (TIP): Stuart Binny and Ishwar Pandey must have been thrilled to bits when they got their maiden India call-up for the tour of New Zealand. ‘It’s an opportunity I’m not going to let go of,’ both must have promised themselves. Alas, that opportunity never arrived. All that Binny, amongst the most talented all-rounders in India at the moment, got was one over in the fourth ODI. He was luckier than Pandey, though, who played just a warm-up game.
Both, perhaps, should have taken a ‘reality check’ from legspinner Amit Mishra, who must have become sick and tired of serving drinks to his teammates, having warmed the bench during India’s last two tours. The mettle of the ‘bench strength’ is not being tested enough, with the tried and tested lot being persisted with, despite failing at times. Experts are divided in their opinion on whether India have used their resources in the best possible way on away tours. But with the team floundering the way it has on foreign shores recently, some drastic measures may be needed.
Is the team keen on discovering new talent? The case of Mishra serves as a good example. The 31-year-old leggie has been in and out of the team and former India selector Raja Venkat blamed skipper MS Dhoni for Mishra’s plight. “His career is finished. He was our best bet after Anil Kumble in the leg-spin department. By dropping him again and again, you have finished his confidence,” Venkat told TOI. Venkat’s colleague in the selection panel, former India leggie Narendra Hirwani, though, spells out a reason. “Mishra doesn’t enjoy Dhoni’s confidence. For a leg-spinner to do well, it is critical that he gets the backing of his skipper. Maybe, because Dhoni himself plays leg spin so well, he doesn’t feel Mishra can be a dangerous bowler.
A leg-spinner is an attacking option. He may go for runs, so a defensive captain may not play him. But Dhoni is not a cricketer who will harm a youngster’s career deliberately,” he says. Perhaps it is time a national selector travels with the team on overseas tours now. Having seen a player in domestic cricket, the selector would have a better idea about his skills, rather than a foreign coach, who hardly watches domestic cricket in India, or Dhoni, who is busy with international cricket. “It makes sense. The problem is, currently the selectors’ role finishes once he picks the squad.
You have to let the selector have a say in the final XI too,” recommends Venkat. Since it would involve contributing in crucial calls, former India skipper and chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar feels the selector who joins the team abroad must be “an experienced former India player, who has a stature in international cricket. Any other selector would be just a tourist.” Former India skipper, and later a selector and manager, Chandu Borde opined that the team needed a “manager who understands the game well and contributes with useful suggestions.” Another former India skipper, Ajit Wadekar, though, doesn’t welcome the idea. “As a captain, I would not have liked a selector to dabble in decision-making. On a tour, that is the sole responsibility of a captain or coach. It is the captain who has the best idea about what exactly is happening between the 22 yards,” he stresses. “I don’t think it makes sense. It will complicate things. Some people don’t like interference,” agreed ex-India opener and selector VB Chandresekhar. He also backed Dhoni’s call to persist with the same XI as far as possible.