Jadeja fitness blunder puts spotlight on wisdom of Indian leadership group

Ajit Vijaykumar 20:19 23/12/2018
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Ravindra Jadeja travelled to Australia while carrying a shoulder injury.

Lack of pre-series practice? Check. Wrong selection? Check. Lack of clear communication with the outside world? Check.

India’s ongoing tour of Australia has ticked all the boxes at the halfway point of the Border Gavaskar series. India have followed an unwanted pattern in their previous two tours of England and Australia and even after suffering chastening defeats on both tours, they haven’t learned from their mistakes.

Committing mistakes is not the problem, it’s the reluctance to learn from them and ensuring there is no repeat which is getting on the nerves of Indian cricket fans.

Critics back home and in Australia have questioned the Indian team’s selection for the Perth Test which the No1 Test team lost comfortably by 146 runs as the series was levelled.

India were without main off-spinner Ravi Ashwin and batsman Rohit Sharma, both declared unfit for the second Test. Virat Kohli decided to go in with four frontline fast bowlers on a green Perth pitch where it was Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon who ultimately proved the match-winner with eight wickets. India had Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav in the squad but decided not to field either.

But instead of admitting that India made another major selection mistake in an away Test this year, Kohli said they might have gone in with four quicks even if Ashwin was fit. As it turned out, fast bowler Umesh Yadav was the weakest link as he gave away 139 runs for just two wickets in a low-scoring game on a bowler’s pitch.

On Sunday, India coach Ravi Shastri came out all guns blazing as he targeted those critics. But instead of silencing them, Shastri provided even more ammunition and saw more questions being raised about his role and wisdom.

The India coach said Jadeja arrived in Australia carrying an injury and hence was not selected. Jadeja was part of the final 13 for the Perth Test and it shows the collective wisdom of the team in a very poor light. Allowing an unfit bowler to travel halfway across the globe, bowl during net sessions after taking injections to the shoulder and even field for a major part of the Perth Test as a substitute fielder is beyond comprehension.

What is Jadeja doing in Australia if he is unfit? Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar was not picked ahead of a wayward Umesh, so does that mean Bhuvi is also not 100 per cent fit? Why did Shastri insist India will field Jadeja in Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test even if he is 80 per cent fit? Why has Hardik Pandya flown to Australia after playing just one first-class match following a lengthy lay-off following a serious back injury?

The questions keep piling on. The answers we are getting are making the situation even more complicated. The defiance of Kohli and Shastri even after their obvious errors in judgment have been exposed is laughable.

India dropped an in-form Bhuvi for the second Test against South Africa in Centurion despite the bowler picking up six wickets and scoring 38 runs in the first match. They then picked Kuldeep for the Lord’s Test in England despite the pitch being damp and under covers for a day.

India then selected a clearly unfit Ashwin for the Southampton Test against England and went on to lose the series on a turning pitch. And now, this.

With each passing Test, the absence of logic and consistency in India’s team selection and player management gets even more obvious. And the louder Shastri, and even Kohli, roar while defending their decision, the tighter the noose gets tightened around their leadership abilities in Tests.

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Coach Ravi Shastri spills the beans on India's fitness woes

Sudhir Gupta 18:05 23/12/2018
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Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri.

India coach Ravi Shastri has revealed the team is battling major fitness issues ahead of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.

India were without injured off-spinner Ravi Ashwin – who has an abdominal strain – in the Perth Test which Australia won comfortably to level the series 1-1. The Indian team received criticism for going in with four fast bowlers and no recognised spinner even though they had left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja in the final 13 and wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav in the squad.

After the Perth Test, captain Virat Kohli said they might have gone in with four pacers even if Ashwin was fit. Interestingly, it was Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon who came up with a match-winning haul of eight wickets.

But on Sunday, Shastri spilled the beans on a completely different set of issues, which had not been revealed by Kohli or the Indian management. According to Shastri, Jadeja arrived in Australia carrying a shoulder injury and not only was he allowed to be a part of the final 13, he bowled regularly in the nets after taking injections and was used as a substitute fielder extensively in the Perth Test.

“The problem with Jaddu was that he had taken an injection four days into coming to Australia because of stiffness in his shoulder, and it took a while for that injection to settle down. At Perth, we felt he was about 70-80 per cent fit and we didn’t want to risk that in Perth. If he is 80 per cent in Melbourne, he will play,” Shastri said.

“When he came here, he felt some stiffness, and he felt that in India as well but he played domestic cricket after that,” Shastri said. “Still felt stiff in the shoulder, and he was injected again and it takes time to settle. It has taken longer than we expected, and we wanted to be careful.”

The revelation has put severe strain on the 19-member strong Indian contingent in Australia. Apart from Jadeja and Ashwin, batsman Rohit Sharma is recovering from a back injury while late addition all-rounder Hardik Pandya has played just one first-class match after recovering from a serious back injury.

Shastri said it is touch and go as far as Ashwin’s availability is concerned.

“As far as Ashwin is concerned, we are going to take a look and evaluate over the next 48 hours,” Shastri said. “Rohit has made a very good improvement but then again we have got to see how he pulls up tomorrow. But he looks good as of today.”

Fitness issues apart, India have a major headache in the batting department with openers Murali Vijay and KL Rahul woefully out of form. Mayank Agarwal is being seen a a possible replacement opener, along with keeper Parthiv Patel and even middle order batsman Hanuma Vihari.

“It’s a big concern,” Shastri said about the openers. “It’s obvious and that responsibility and accountability has to be taken by the top order. They’ve got the experience, they’ve got the exposure over these last few years to get out there and deliver. It’s about how strong you are in the mind.”

NO ISSUES WITH KOHLI

The animated celebrations and general demeanour of India skipper Kohli have come in for criticism with many in Australia and India unhappy with the way he has confronted his counterpart Tim Paine so far.

But Shastri said Kohli has behaved like a ‘gentleman’. “What’s wrong with his behaviour? As far as we are concerned, he is an absolute gentleman,” he said.

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India in danger of losing 2023 World Cup over tax claim by ICC

Sudhir Gupta 18:00 22/12/2018
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India stands to lose hosting rights for the 2021 Champions Trophy and the 2023 World Cup if it fails to compensate the International Cricket Council (ICC) for tax deductions incurred while hosting the 2016 World T20 in India.

The Times of India reported that the ICC has asked the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to pay $23m before the end of the month to compensate for the tax deductions which the ICC had to bear after the tournament did not get a tax waiver from the Indian government.

Star TV, the broadcasters for all ICC tournaments, had deducted the taxed amount before paying the world body for the 2016 World T20. The ICC reportedly wants the BCCI to pay for the shortfall.

According to the report, the ICC has stated that should the Indian board fail to pay up, the amount will be deducted from India’s share of revenue from the current year.

The world body has apparently stated that it might also be forced to look at “other options” to host the 2021 Champions Trophy and the 2023 50-over World Cup.

On its part, the BCCI has asked the ICC to share the minutes of any meeting where India agreed to a tax waiver. The BCCI was led by former president N Srinivasan at the time. Interestingly, the ICC is currently headed by former BCCI chief Shashank Manohar.

According to the report, the BCCI will look at legal recourse should the ICC deduct the said amount from its share of the pie.

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