With this week officially being labeled as the Formula 1 period in India, for the first time, a sport named Cricket has slipped under the radar- despite this being a prelude to one of the more important tours in recent history.
Round 1: Shock and awe.
Team India will be playing at home. After we’re done breathing a sigh of relief, let us go deeper into the relevance of this tour:
First of all, this will be the first official assignment of the new selection panel led by Sandeep Patil. To reiterate this fact, he has begun things with a controversial bang. And a sly grin. The India A squad has been picked to play England from October 30th. Such practice games before the tests are very important for touring teams that need to get used to the alien conditions in the sub-continent. After conveniently ignoring the importance of such games when they toured England, the Indian management has decided to make things a little tricky for a spin-horrified England squad.
Prepare for detonation.
14 members have been chosen as part of this India A team. Yuvraj Singh’s surprise double century in the Duleep Trophy match is a sign of things to come, and Patil has expectedly fast-tracked him into the IndiaA squad. Surprisingly, Raina will be leading this team- and he is in direct contention for that empty no. 6 spot, with Yuvraj Singh being his only competitor right now. Rohit Sharma has been left out of the squad, and he will have to grind his way back in Ranji cricket once again. This means that Tiwary and Rahane and 3rd and 4th choice batsmen for this spot- but the pecking order is clearly visible.
Players like Robin Bisht, Ashok Menaria and Rayadu have been selected- more as a reward for their consistent domestic performances. Three of the 6 batsmen will warm the bench, but it is still validation of their efforts- and that IPL isn’t the only way to break into the national team anymore.
Back to the future.
Yet, this is not the most controversial decision so far. The selectors have NOT included even one specialist spinner in this team, choosing 4 pacers indeed. This is like going to Australia without a specialist quick, and involves a bit of gamesmanship even before the tour has begun. England, bolstered by the return of ‘commentator’ Kevin Pietersen, are already crying foul- as they should be. If there was ever a team that NEEDED to be exposed to the turning ball in these conditions (apart from the minnows), the former World No. 1 test team would win the race without a problem.
Hence, this bit of mischief by Patil and co. is bound to cause a stir. The struggling England touring side, in familiar freefall characterized by former no. 1 test teams, will have only 3 days at Brabourne against this India A side to play pacers that will, in all likelihood, not even get a look-in in the final test squad.
With Pujara and Kohli securing their no. 3 and no. 5 spots in the Test batting order, it is now Raina v/s Yuvraj for the no. 6 spot, which could very well be decided in this important encounter at the CCI. England will be taking no chances with their own team, and will prefer to play their main players in order to warm them up to the possibility of being belted on pitches that have been prepared to resurrect the Home Team.
Very soon, though, Patil and co. might have to start thinking about filling in a vacant no. 4 spot in the Test team, if things go according to ‘form’ in this tour. One can’t help but think that Sachin Tendulkar will be the man in the spotlight, once again, 22 years after making his debut.