Suresh Menon’s latest article should resonate with all who watched the game yesterday, and cringed at Dinesh Karthik’s performance with the gloves [the Keystone Kops nature of his let off of Dilshan was bad enough; the fumble as prelude to the Sangakkara stumping was downright embarassing].
It would be foolish to depend on a very small group of players and then discover when the need arises that the replacements are not ready. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni for example, is now forced to miss two matches because of India’s poor over-rate in the Nagpur one-dayer. This means a wicketkeeper, who hasn’t kept for a while, will have to do the job. Yet an intelligent policy of rotation would have ensured that such a person is ready to deliver. This is not to say that Dhoni should be dropped from the team at regular intervals, only that there should be a plan to introduce one or two players into the team just so they keep in touch.
Successful teams have skillful players both on the field and on the bench ready to step in at short notice. You do not experiment during a tournament like the World Cup. But during the build-up it is necessary. And sometimes you learn more from a loss than a victory, which tends to hide the shortcomings.
Yesterday’s win hid a whole laundry list of shortcomings. We are an incisive opening attack short; the bench strength in the seam department is suddenly non-existent; the middle order remains unstable, so much so that had opening batsman Sachin Tendulkar not anchored the chase, the hard work of our spinners could still have been undone; clearly we have no viable understudy for a wicket-keeper who, as captain in all three forms, is the most over-worked player in the side…
Another clip from Menon:
India can no longer afford to define victory in narrow terms, on the basis of matches actually won. It is when substitutes perform well, when the bench strength rises to the challenge that from a long-term perspective it may be assumed that a team is doing well. Australia showed that when they won the one-day series in India with what was in effect their second team, injuries having eliminated many frontline players.
It is not necessary for India to go for broke every time. There is such a thing as building a team. If Virat Kohli, for example, is not ready to replace a top player like Yuvraj Singh or Sachin Tendulkar in the middle of a World Cup, then the selectors have failed. But batting is not really a major problem, although there is a call for ensuring that everyone gets enough rest, and that the replacements can hit the ground running. The World Cup is the making of a player, and if one or two matches in the build-up are lost while someone is given the chance to establish himself, then that is a fair trade-off.