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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