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Selection conundrums for the Asia Cup

Trevor Chesterfield

Updated: June 2, 2010, 10:24 PM IST
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If the Zimbabwe tri-nations series means anything in terms of future planning, teams for the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka, later this month could show some interesting changes. So far, selection policies outlined in India and Sri Lanka display a series of opposing points of view of how to tackle the event.

Apart from surface conditions in early winter Zimbabwe with dead grass, to the early summer regions of Sri Lanka, the batting combinations and bowling rotations show, so far, despite the results of the first three games, wet weather and unseasonal arctic conditions, make it far colder than Derby in high summer.

Anyone who has not had the "pleasure" of sitting at the Racecourse, Derby on a breezy June morning only needed to glimpse those spectators wrapped against the chill experienced in the three games played in Bulawayo, to understand how even two sets of thermal underwear and three jerseys, are barely enough to stop the biting cold, in this case blasting off the Matobo National Park hills nearby. As could be seen from some players, hands in the pockets to keep fingers warm and ready for bowling, was only part of the routine.

A common sight among the slip fieldsmen in England in April is their hands tucked under armpits to prevent chilled fingers and knuckles getting bruised and thus fumbling catches when the edges come.

Anyway, whatever the outcome of the games this series, the selectors of the two countries are going to be more interested in skills, form and the various combinations the coaches are trying in the southern-central African nation.

There are the jingoists who look at the two victories as being positive signs. Frankly, if you examine the Queens Sports Club pitches used for the three games, it doesn't explain a lot unless the bowlers get the ball in the right area and find the right length. Whereas India failed to do this against Zimbabwe, with a trio of debutants in terms of three bowlers led by Ashok Dinda, Udesh Yadav and Vinay Kumar, without a senior on the field to show them, Sri Lanka went in with bowlers who have worn the "Bulawayo - Been there, Done That" t-shirts. It is why Harare will be different.

Sri Lanka had nine experienced Test and ODI players on the field in that opening game and it wasn't so much that their batting and bowling focus was out of shape, they gave the impression, well some of them, they had come out of a long lay-off. It was generally a poor performance.

Apart from forgetting the basics against a well-drilled, professional India, with the running between wickets sliding to a lamentable exercise little better than a Sunday social club outing farce, it again displayed poor technique and begs the question of what is the coaching staff doing to correct basics you are taught at junior school level.

There was a time during the game you would wonder if it wasn't Sri Lanka A playing in disguise, not the senior squad on duty. Three run outs are bad enough, but it should have been four but for that most inept of Indian players, Dinesh Karthik. He fumbled a chance to terminate Chamara Kapugedara's innings when the Sri Lankan went for a risky second run, knocking off the bails with his gloves before collecting the return ripped in by Ravinda Jadeja. It was as clumsy as it gets and was seriously poor keeping.

Kapugedara, described by one Sri Lanka selector some time ago as being better than the South African AB de Villiers, was on a shaky eight at the time and scratched around further against tight Indian bowling and tidy fielding after that, while the injured Angelo Mathews, even hobbling on one leg, made him appear ordinary.

Also, Sri Lanka went into the game with wrong bowling attack for the pitch conditions. They had no idea what length to bowl and penetration was missing as well. Another part of the problem is how the injury to the Sri Lanka vice-captain, Mathews denied the captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, of an important extra seamer, not that this mattered.

Aravinda de Silva's new selection committee, replacing the sacked crowd led by Ashantha de Mel, having watched the game off the television, admitted that they are not too bothered by the performance as they have their own plans for the Asia Cup. Does this suggest that the performances of the team in Zimbabwe will count for little? No one has answered that tricky question. It also suggests that the chirpy Dinesh Chandimal, who took over wicketkeeping from Tillakaratne Dilshan for the Zimbabwe game will not be considered for the Dambulla event.

As he is already going to Australia with the Sri Lanka A side for their Northern tour, which starts on June 13, he can be discounted for the Asia Cup unless the new selection panel decides otherwise.

This also begs the question regarding India's Asia Cup plans, and longer-term development for the World Cup squad, with names of the initial 30 to be announced around December 31. Apart from tours of Sri Lanka, there is also the tougher one of South Africa, by which time Krish Sikkanth's mafia will have made up their minds. One thing for sure is that why Sri Lanka move along with a bunch of tired familiar faces, India have a chance to do something different and this could lead to a better-prepared squad.

Perhaps even the Asia Cup may throw up a few new faces in the squad, giving those from this Zimbabwe tour an extended run. Certainly, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma will be in Sri Lanka, who else will be in the squad depends on what plans the selectors have. Karthik as an example can cost India a game, even a Test series, yet is given chance after chance. Parthiv Patel gets nothing at all.

First Published: June 2, 2010, 10:24 PM IST

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