The Indian team management has done many things right over the past couple of seasons. The insistence on higher fitness levels, the development of a strong fast bowling unit and the creation of a large pool of match-ready players across formats are some of the biggest achievements. It is the result of those initiatives that the Indian team is the No1 team in Tests and ranked second in both ODIs and T20s.
But there is one area where the Indian management has fallen short on more than one occasion and that is team selection. It might seem ridiculous to suggest that one of the most consistent teams across formats over the past two seasons doesn’t get the team combination right every time, but just hear me out.
In the beginning of the year, Virat Kohli decided to drop in-form seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the second Test against South Africa despite him taking six scalps in the first. Kohli argued with the media but refused to admit it was a clear mistake. In the third Test, Bhuvneshwar came right back into the team, scored 63 runs on a treacherous Jo’burg wicket and picked up four wickets in a famous win. During that South Africa Test series, Ajinkya Rahane – India’s most consistent overseas batsman for multiple seasons – played just one Test.
5-wicket hauls for India in T20Is:— Bharath Seervi (@SeerviBharath) July 3, 2018
6/25 - Chahal v Eng, 2017
5/24 - Bhuvneshwar v SA, 2018
5/24 - Kuldeep v Eng, 2018#EngVInd
Come to the tour of England and Ireland and the pattern continues. Wicketkeeper batsman Dinesh Karthik has played just one T20 out of five despite being the star of the Nidahas Trophy T20 final against Bangladesh in March, where he belted 29 not out from eight balls chasing 167.
In the deciding T20 of the series in Bristol on Sunday, the management decided to drop Kuldeep Yadav – man of the match in the first T20 – owing to the small boundaries at the venue. The same bowler who had snared five wickets in Manchester wasn’t considered a good choice one match later.
Cricket is a simple game if you decide to keep it that way. You select your best players and back them to deliver irrespective of opposition. If your best attack includes two spinners, then two spinners it is.
India won the deciding T20 handsomely, but it could have gone so wrong. India had two inexperienced quicks in Siddarth Kaul and debutant Deepak Chahar. To enter such a crucial match without Kuldeep, with Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar already injured, was an unwise move which – luckily for them – didn’t backfire.
India have enough quality to overcome most challenges. But if they keep making such incredulous selection decisions, it will cost them dear one day.
Sharma is passionate about wildlife and is actively involved in conservation projects. He is a member of PETA and in 2016 joined an anti-poaching campaign in Kenya. The opening batsman donated to the project, along with Hollywood stars Matt Le Blanc and Salma Hayek, that took care of Sudan until the rhinoceros passed away at the age of 45 at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya following age-related health problems.
And after his match-winning century against England in Bristol that helped India clinch the series 2-1, Sharma dedicated his knock to the rhino he had tried to help.
“Yesterday’s innings is dedicated to my fallen friend Sudan. May we find a way to make this world a better place for all of us,” Sharma wrote on Twitter.
Following the death of Sudan, just two northern white rhinos remain – Najin and Fatu, Sudan’s daughter and granddaughter.
The win ensured India’s sixth consecutive series win in the T20 format after their recent triumphs over Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand and in the Nidahas tri-series.
When it comes to three-match bilateral series, India have now won eight of the last nine they have participated in with one against Australia ending in a 1-1 draw.
In fact, India’s last loss in a three-match bilateral T20 series came against South Africa back in 2016. That 2-1 loss is India’s sole in a series comprising of three T20 matches.
India have now won 11 out of the 15 T20I series they played since Jan 2016, drawing one (vs Aus, 2017) - their only losses came against WI (two bilateral series one each in 2016 and 2017 & semis of WT20 2016)#IREvIND— Cricbuzz (@cricbuzz) June 29, 2018
Since that defeat to South Africa, only the West Indies have managed to get the better of India in any bilateral T20 series. The men from the Caribbean have beaten India on two separate series during this period although one of them came in a one-off T20 clash at Kingston last year.
Since that loss to West Indies at Kingston, India have not been on the losing end of any bilateral T20 series. Post that loss, India have gone on a run of 17 wins out of 23 T20 clashes with one game against Australia being washed out.
It is no surprise then that Virat Kohli’s men find themselves at the second position in the ICC T20 rankings where they stand behind only Pakistan who have been even more impressive in the format with 24 wins in their last 28 matches.