Planning commission, and omission

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.

9 thoughts on “Planning commission, and omission

  1. Prem,

    “Yesterday’s win hid a whole laundry list of shortcomings.”

    The key point of winning is not let your shortcomings show. And perfection is only in utopia.

    Regarding bench strength, IMO, the main differentiator between good and other teams is the divide between first class and international level. The selected bench players in India never get tested, and they themselves would not have any confidence in their abilities whenever a rare chance presents itself. Skill is more than just hitting or hurling a ball, it also includes how one works with others, communicates, understands situations and react. The benchwarming players rarely get a chance to hone or develop these skills for the performance of the team.


  2. It is albeit surprising that rotation and keeping a match-ready bench is never in the minds of our selectors and/or team management. At least we haven’t seen any example of that so far.

    Is it “don’t touch the winning combination” mindset at work? If we tweak something and team loses then who will answer the inevitable media frenzy, that’s what keep us away from trying out replacements, unless it’s an absolutely necessity?

    Personally I feel, cricket is a rare team sport where in-play-substitution is non-existent (ignoring the sub fielder option). In other sports like football, substitution adds another dimension tactically and off course gives a chance to check your bench strength when feasible.

  3. Dinesh Karthik has been keeping wickets for TN for all games this Ranji season, bar the Mumbai encounter. So I doubt the readiness factor.

    So what more are the selectors expected to do? Guy has been keeping in Ranji all season long, is the first choice keeper when the captain is indisposed, comes in and has a bad game.

    So the question is, where does the onus of readiness lie?


  4. I simply can’t digest phrases such as “had Sachin Tendulkar not played that inning.” It’s utterly incomprehensible why all of us keep saying that. Somebody will raise his hand on a given day to lead. We are fortunate that Sachin does it so often, but that does not mean that the others would not have realized the importance of their wicket “had Sachin not played that inning.” This is simply out of context.

    I am reminded of Sidhu’s famous phrase, “If my aunt had a moustache, I would have had another uncle.” Please!

  5. “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…”

    I didn’t see his keeping at all yesterday save for one replay of the stumping – so I can’t comment on that. Maybe he just had an off day? But he got runs when asked to open in WI, and did what he needed to with the bat yesterday. In between, he has been getting runs for TN in the Super League (400+ with 2 centuries).

    Parthiv Patel meanwhile tops the Ranji run charts with 2 or 3 centuries.

    With 2 substitutes available for MSD, I submit that it is an exaggeration to say “no viable understudy”. Save for Aus with Haddin and Tim Paine, I don’t think any other side has forget two, even one ready replacement for its keeper.

    • “Viable” as in proven. Parthiv and Karthik are options, but unless they play at this level we won’t know how good they are — which plays directly into Suresh’s argument that we need to use the time before the World Cup to test some of these options out. Theoretically, we have “substitutes” for everyone, from Sehwag and Tendulkar on down. But till they are proven, and made match ready, the “substitutes” are merely notional, not practical.

  6. In Karthik’s case, I’d think that this scrutiny is unwarranted unless he replaces Dhoni as keeper for one complete set of games and repeats these same mistakes over and over again. The guy’s played ~35 ODIs since his debut in 2004 (India’s played ~160 in that period) and in some of these he hasn’t kept either.

    Personally it’s unfortunate that we are putting him under the microscope on the basis of one game here and there. More than his keeping, the complaints (from some folks) that he denied Sachin a century are atrocious, to say the least!

    • Why must comments be taken out of context? The above was not a critique of Karthik per se, but the use of DK as one exemplar of what the selectors need to do. Suresh wrote that piece before the game; the fact that DK had to be pressed into service, and when that was done, proved so rusty as to almost cost us the game, underlines that point.

      No one is denying DK’s capability with the bat or even his notional capability with the gloves — the point is, he is not match ready, and that has to do with the rotation policy or lack thereof. No need to get your hackles up, mate.

      • The fact that neither you or Suresh Menon are pointing fingers at DK did not slip by me. I was venting about what I have been hearing from other folks (particularly the grouse about his batting with Sachin). And to be honest, I am tempted to play Devil’s advocate about DK’s rustiness (keeping that the Ranji season is currently on), but nah, not the place 🙂

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