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Shastri & Kohli Have Got the Red Ball & White Ball All Mixed Up

The denial has gone on so long, it is beyond comprehension. Or do they really not know? Or do they refuse to acknowledge? Or are they too falling prey to these sexy new messiahs of cricket?

Gaurav Sethi |Cricketnext |August 17, 2018, 9:56 AM IST
Shastri & Kohli Have Got the Red Ball & White Ball All Mixed Up

The denial has gone on so long, it is beyond comprehension. Or do they really not know? Or do they refuse to acknowledge? Or are they too falling prey to these sexy new messiahs of cricket?

It’s time for Kohli and Shastri (K&S) to wake up and smell the red balls. To have it tattooed that red ball cricket and white ball cricket are essentially different.

Few better places to start off than in a tour in tatters. At 0-2 down, India have everything to lose. Foul weather notwithstanding, going down 0-5 is no more a bad dream.

Ignoring the recent findings of the South Africa tour was baffling. The importance of conditioning through warm-up matches in relatively alien conditions was applied by playing an ODI and T20 series in England with a token red ball match (18-a-side carnival). If that wasn’t bad enough, they severed a day off it too.

While Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul were part of the limited overs teams, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane were coming in relatively cold. In an India A match vs England Lions, Vijay’s returns were a worrisome 8 and 0, while Rahane came in at five and six, after Mayank Agarwal and Karun Nair, who weren’t in the Test squad. His returns: 49 and 48.

Yeah sure, Pujara was playing county cricket but he wasn’t part of the Indian set-up while doing so. That’s three of your regular top five batsmen, going into an overseas Test match after playing an India A match (with sub 200 totals) and a truncated 18-a-side joke.

Top that, Pujara was dropped from the first Test and yet again a Test tour was started with Dhawan. Only to drop him for the next match. The random white ball selections were yet again being applied to red ball cricket. Dropping Pujara on his county form though, was akin to dropping Rohit based on his IPL form. Begs the question, do international cricketers need to prove themselves through local tournaments?

K&S, by all accounts, would know that the white ball they play with in ODIs and T20s is quite different from the red ball – and within red balls too, there are various types.

But seeing how it continues to pan out, why take anything for granted.

White Kookaburra balls are used in one-day and T20 international matches, while red Kookaburra balls are used in test matches played in most of the Test-playing nations, except for the West Indies and England, who use Duke balls, and India, who use SG balls.

Through this England tour itself, we’ve learned and unlearned so much. That this dreadful Duke ball (red) is not whack-friendly as such. It seams, it swings, it moves around like the devil, sits on your shoulder and talks you out.

That it demands respect. The power play is redefined with it. More so, with its supreme exponent, James Anderson.

That though, did not deter K&S from dropping Patience himself. You dropped Patience, as you were impatient – you wanted to bully your way through the new ball. You started with a 50-run opening partnership.

But such was the manner in which Dhawan was dismissed, that in spite of the runs he made, you went with the popular verdict to drop him. Who knows maybe the dropped catches pitched in too. Dhawan doesn’t drop white balls in the slips for obvious reasons.

For the second Test, yet again, you went with the popular verdict to pick Kuldeep Yadav. It’s another thing Sachin Tendulkar and everybody’s pet cat wanted Kuldeep for the first Test itself. So, what do you do – you wait for a day to be lost to rain, more rain forecast for the following days, and pick Kuldeep for his first Test match outside the subcontinent. On the basis of his white ball form in England.

Had the Test series been played after the ODIs in South Africa, who knows, he may have played there too.

After his T20 heroics, a red-hot Dinesh Karthik barely played in the limited overs leg. Possibly, the most exciting India batsman this IPL, Rishabh Pant wasn’t even picked for the T20s. A floundering Manish Pandey was. As was, a sweet memory of Suresh Raina, not just for the T20s but the ODIs too.

So, if red and white ball differential isn’t easy for K&S, clearly, telling white ball from white ball across formats is downright herculean.

Top that, fresh from his exploits with India A in England, Rishabh Pant was picked in the Test squad. If he plays, he will be making his Test debut in England.

Surprisingly, Rohit Sharma did not even make the Test squad. A blessing in disguise for him perhaps. He will in all likelihood play India’s next Test series.

While England is ruthless about who their Test and ODI bowlers are, India has no such differential. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, often sidelined this IPL because of either a niggle or injury, played four T20s and the deciding ODI to find himself unavailable for the first two Tests. In the ODI on July 17, he appeared far from fully fit.

Losing him before the Tests was not too different from England losing Anderson; who by the way, last played an ODI on March 13, 2015 and a T20I on November 15, 2009. Mr. Anderson is 36 now. He went past 550 Test wickets in the Lord’s Test.

His bowling partner, Stuart Broad, 32, last played an ODI over two and half years ago. Broad’s last T20 was over four years ago.

Bhuvneshwar may not be yet 29, but he is that rare thing, a swing bowler. And if he’s not handled with kid gloves, he could go the Praveen Kumar way. (A little harsh but you get the drift)

As for Vijay, Pujara and Rahane, largely unconsidered for white ball cricket, how long before they fail to make the Test squad leave alone the team?

This England series could well be history by mid-August. It’s up to them, whether they want to be lost in it or make it.

Therein could be a vital lesson on how to tell white ball and red ball cricket apart.

And there’s no way that Kohli & Shastri will not see it when it looks them in the eye like that.

(Gaurav Sethi branded Bored Cricket Crazy Indians (BCC!) to bring bloggers together. He also branded Che Pujara, Jatman and Thank You Sachin! – as a cartoon, before it became a farewell cry. He used to work on brands. Now he works on himself. He tweets at @BoredCricket)

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