Yuvraj Singh is one of our most naturally gifted cricketers, who has a great temperament to boot. He has proven this time and again, from that famous chase with Kaif to overcome England and prompt Sourav Ganguly to yank off his shirt on the hallowed balcony of Lord’s, to being the best man for India in last year’s World Cup campaign. In fact, I have always felt he did not get a fair opportunity in Tests when he was in his prime, because the prime slots were permanently reserved for the Big Four regardless of their fluctuations in form.
Maybe the selectors want to make up for their past transgressions. How else can you explain Yuvraj Singh’s inclusion in the squad for the World T20, when he has played almost no competitive cricket after chemotherapy etc. to recover from a cancer in the lungs?
If that is inexplicable, the selection of Harbhajan Singh is even more curious. What has he done since his exclusion to make a comeback? We saw how he struggled in the IPL, preferring mostly to bowl in the safe middle overs out of desperation to mitigate the clobbering.
If you were caught up with the Olympics and hadn’t kept tabs on Indian cricket recently, you would think there was something drastically wrong with the team for the selectors to adopt desperate corrective measures. But that’s not the case; in fact, it’s just the opposite. We had a fantastic tour in Sri Lanka which seemed like perfect preparation for the T20 World Cup, but I guess our selectors must have been mesmerised by Usain Bolt like the rest of us, because they seem to have paid scant attention to the Lankan series.
Instead of reposing faith in the team that did so well on Lankan soil, the selectors have chosen to make changes that defy cricketing logic. They have added a second off-spinner whose tweaks are woefully out of whack, and pulled a Laxmipathy Balaji out of the hat. Balaji did reasonably well for Kolkata in the IPL, but then why wasn’t he picked for the Lanka series, at least for the T20 game? What has the young, promising pace bowler Umesh Yadav done so wrong that he is suddenly out of favour?
Another upcoming star who finds himself left out for no good reason is Ajinkya Rahane, the star of the last T20 league. This is exactly the sort of round robin approach to selection that does the opposite of nurturing talent. And if India do win the World Twenty20, which they are quite capable of, given their talent in these conditions, it will be despite the selectors and not thanks to them.
Their fondness for the old guard is evident in the Test selection too. The only point of interest was whether VVS Laxman would retain his place despite his abject failures in England and Australia. Sure enough, he gets a chance to knock off a few easy runs on home soil against the Kiwis, instead of somebody new getting a chance to establish a Test career. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
We are used to the capriciousness of our cricket administration, but the outgoing chairman of selectors Krishnamachari Srikkanth has outdone even himself this time. The reinstatement of Gautam Gambhir as vice-captain was the one thing he got right, but it was a correction of a past mistake: Gambhir should never have been replaced with the young Virat Kohli in the first place. This is Tughlaqesque.