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Dancing in the dark - selectors looking for answers

Trevor Chesterfield

Updated: June 9, 2010, 10:39 PM IST
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As any national coach will tell you, the World Cup is still a long way off. Gary Kirsten, you can guarantee, disappointed as he will be with the Zimbabwe fiasco, knows that the Asia Cup is a chance for the reshaped squad to regroup.

There are those Indian players who will also be viewing the four-team Dambulla event as a salvage operation. At least they have a better chance of success than the greedy oil moguls of BP, and their facile efforts to curb is a major ecological disaster, where ten-year gaol stints wouldn't go amiss for those miscreants involved.

It is well known that neither India nor Sri Lanka enjoy being spectators at a tournament final they play in, especially where the third country is near bottom rung of the limited overs rankings.

Zimbabwe though have surprised many and India are sulking over their inability to make an impact in this series, squeezed as it has been onto the calendar as a filler to help the African country earn a little more exposure in the build up to CWC11. This is after their self-imposed moratorium of withdrawing Test status and playing bigger nations because of major off-field ructions with selection and politicised boardroom machinations. These crated the image of what had been little better than a banana republic, their reduced player strength little more than a rabble of misfits masquerading as an international team.

It showed too several years ago when competing in South Africa in the second tier of the first-class system and they were regularly thrashed. Not a good advert at all, for what is a full member of the International Cricket Council. Now they have emerged as a competitive nation, but resumption of their valued Test status is some way off. Yet they did go into this tournament with a strategy and it worked.

Sri Lanka arrived in the landlocked African nation with better pre-tournament planning than India who, having decided on experimenting with combinations wanted to get a better idea of which members of their so-called bench strength are capable of handling pressures and to give the lesser players a chance. The bowling in this particular series needed a senior bowler to guide the youngsters on the field, which a coach can't do.

While there are howls of indignation from some quarters greeting the axing of Yuvraj Singh, and agreement with the Chennai Krish Srikkanth selection coterie by others that he should go, at least Dinesh Karthik has been finally axed. He was found wanting in conditions which were favourable to batsmen as himself. Hopefully the selectorial persistence of including him in teams has finally run its long-term dalliance, especially as he was totally useless in the role of a wicketkeeper. India have far better to fill this role, but are overlooked to give this "teacher's pet" an extended run.

India still have two T20 games against Zimbabwe, but in terms of the Asia Cup, only a week away, and the late arrival of Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma along with the support bowling strength, it means a rushed start to the tournament and little time to acclimatise. For this reason do not expect the team to be firing as they should be. There will also be those with jetlag.

Raina's complaint in Zimbabwe was how the bowling failed. This was always going to be the case when you look at the strength of the Sri Lanka side who had nine Test players and experienced ODI players in their ranks. This differs with the views of Tillakaratne Dilshan who suggested Sri Lanka had a young team in Zimbabwe.

Certainly, the talented Dinesh Chandimal is still 20, but to suggest someone such as Jeevan Mendis is young at 27 is as bad as stretching the excuses Mahendra Singh Dhoni made after the team's exit from the Caribbean ICC World T20 event won by England. Inexperienced at ODI level, but so were more than half the India side in Zimbabwe and why it would be harsh to dismiss the squad other than those genuine failures like Karthik.

The selectors have decided to give three of the bowling rookies from the Zimbabwe sojourn a second chance. And why not. They know enough the capabilities of Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma, along with favourites RP Sing and Munaf Patel. It is why having a look at bowlers such as Ashok Dinda and Ravi Ashwin in Sri Lanka conditions during the Asia Cup is worth the risk. It is the old story of how players need to be tested in different conditions and against better batting techniques than they were exposed to in Zimbabwe. This is not a contradiction or criticism, rather understanding what the selectors are trying to achieve.

If anything, lack of a senior spinner to help the inexperienced was a drawback and needs to be addressed before undertaking a similar exercise. A side can only develop if there is a player who can help settle the younger players quicker into their role. Also, there is the A Team tour of England. Whatever might emerge from this visit and add to selection thinking, adding to long-term planning, would be of value.

It is why Kiran More is misconstruing comments regarding Dinda. It is not a matter whether they are going to play in the World Cup so much as looking at bowlers who can be called on and who can perform a role. It is why the Asia Cup in Dambulla is important, as it will give the selectors a chance to revise their opinions and options.

Forgotten is seems is that there is another limited overs triangular series to be played in Sri Lanka after the Asia Cup. Also games against New Zealand and the tour of South Africa, by which stage the side for the World Cup will have emerged. The Asia Cup, as was the case with the triangular series in Zimbabwe series was used as an experiment, and should be seen as such. A dance in the dark if you wish. There is still a long way and another fifteen or so ODI games to play.

First Published: June 9, 2010, 10:39 PM IST

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