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It’s time Team India ditch their love for ‘he can bowl a bit’ or ‘he can bat a bit’ theories

The selection of Jadhav on the basis of 'he can bowl a bit' and Shardul on the basis of 'he is a handy lower-order batsman' in Hamilton was a glaring but unfortunate testimony of that mindset.

India
India. (Photo Source: Twitter)

The Kiwis finally nudged past the finishing line! It had to come at some point, wasn’t it? For far too long the ever-so-gracious hosts that the Kiwis are, they had snatched defeats from what David Lloyd calls ‘Start the tuk-tuk’ positions.

After the dismissal of Tom Latham, New Zealand endured a bit of a stutter; Neesham failed to bring his Twitter form on the field while de Grandhomme succumbed to the teams’ cause and ran himself out in an attempt to sneak in the second run. Just seven runs came in the 46th and 47th over off Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah and once again the Indian fans started to believe the impossible.

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Those hopes were quashed with disdain when Mitchell Santner thumped an innocuous half-tracker by Shardul Thakur over mid-wicket. Thakur resorted to slower delivery but Santner picked it and proceeded to loft him over mid-off. Thakur’s [9-0-80-1] forgetful outing had reached its nadir and it also ensured that India will go down for the first time on their tour of New Zealand.

 

Shardul Thakur- The latest poster boy of India’s penchant for ‘he can bat a bit’ and ‘he can bowl a bit’ theory

Shardul Thakur
Shardul Thakur. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

But why was Shardul picked for the first ODI in the first place? Wasn’t he dropped from the 50-over playing XI after he was taken to the cleaners by David Warner and Aaron Finch in that ten-wicket mauling by the Aussies at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai? Wasn’t Navdeep Saini India’s third seamer in the last two ODIs against Australia?

Thakur’s inclusion in the playing 11 for the Hamilton ODI once again testified that Indian cricket and the current management have a deep penchant for two things. First: Preaching the “He can beat a bit” and “He can bowl a bit” theory and secondly: picking players in one format [in this case ODIs] based on their performances in the other [T20Is].

You mix both of them and you’ll perhaps understand why Shardul was picked ahead of the Navdeep Saini in the Hamilton ODI. But really this isn’t about Shardul or his performances today, it’s about the team management’s mindset of constantly picking players based on their secondary skill

The Mumbai fast bowler has chipped-in with crucial performances with the ball but those were in the T20I format. In ODIs, Thakur has taken nine wickets in as many games at an average of 51.33 and an economy of 6.81. But, it is his cameos with the bat that has proceeded to sway the chances of him playing as the third seamer ahead of Navdeep Saini. And, he is just the latest example of the aforementioned penchants of Indian cricket.

But really this isn’t about Shardul or his performances today, it’s about the team-management’s mindset of constantly picking players based on their secondary skill

Kedar Jadhav
Kedar Jadhav. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Remember when Kedar Jadhav burst on the scene? Apart from being a street-smart No.6 batsman, Jadhav would give you breakthroughs in the middle overs in the most precarious of situations. Even Kedar didn’t know how he was taking wickets.

He was beginning to be seen as the fifth/sixth bowling option for the 2019 World Cup, and suddenly it seemed like he was one of the crucial parts of the jigsaw puzzle that was the Indian team combination for the quadrennial event. “The good thing with Kedar is he can offer a few overs”– You’d have heard the team-management reiterating this line on Umpteen occasions.

But then, Nagpur 2019 happened where all the mystery around Kedar’s bowling was unravelled. The Australians sorted him out brilliantly with an open stance and by using the crease. Since then his bowling figures read 24-0-167-0.

Kedar was dropped from the side for the World Cup semi-finals as Team India went in with an extra batsman in the form of Dinesh Karthik but it still remains the reason why Kedar keeps getting picked in the ODI set-up despite the fact that he has bowled in just six out of the 13 games he has played since the start of the 2019 World Cup. Jadhav didn’t bowl today, nor was he used in the recently concluded series against Australia.

“If he can bowl a bit” is one of the theories that the management preached before the World Cup, the reverse- “he can bat a bit”- has come into full force since then. After Kedar’s bowling was rendered toothless during the World Cup, India resorted to strengthening their playing with bowlers who could bat a bit.

Mohammed Shami was benched against New Zealand in World Cup 2019

Mohammed Shami (Photo by Stu Forster-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

And, we saw that in the semi-final against New Zealand where the Men in Blue went in with as many as nine batting options. They benched Mohammed Shami- one of their spearheads in the tournament- in favour of an injury-ridden Bhuvenshwar Kumar, purely because Bhuvi could offer something with the bat. The result: Even nine batting options weren’t able to overhaul New Zealand’s total of 239 as India were eventually bowled out for 221.

This penchant has also led to the breaking the wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal when the primary reason to slot them in the white-ball set-up ahead of Ashwin and Jadeja was because of the duo’s ability to pick wickets in the middle-overs. That all changed after one poor game against England in the World Cup.

India must understand that this approach might win them an odd game or two, but in the long run, it is only the specialists that will save the day for them. They learned it the hard way on that fateful afternoon at Old Trafford in the semi-finals, but still, they continue to tread on the same path.

The selection of Jadhav on the basis of ‘he can bowl a bit’ and Shardul on the basis of ‘he is a handy lower-order batsman’ in Hamilton was a glaring but unfortunate testimony of that mindset,  something they need to get rid of or else more such nights like July 10 or the recent one in Hamilton will galore.

Watch: Irfan Pathan’s interview post his retirement

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