GAME PLAN: A Test squad that will keep us interested

Jaideep Ghosh

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The reactions to the Indian squad that was announced for the first two Tests of the series against England, beginning later this month, made quite an interesting reading. The most notable name that was thrown up was that of Hardik Pandya.

Now, it doesn’t take as much nowadays to become a Test player as it did 20 years ago, that we all know. With the burgeoning growth in digital media, it is now easier for the national selectors to keep track of how all the players are doing at domestic level.

Believe you me that was a mammoth task in the pre-Internet days. After all, five people had to track literally hundreds of aspiring players from five zones. No mean task.

This leads us to automatically ask, what makes Pandya a Test player.

As far as I see, precious little really. Having accepted that Test teams are now often decided on the basis of performances in limited-overs — be it T20s or ODIs. This is where Pandya has seen enough action to look like a decent white-ball cricketer. But his performances with the red ball aren’t so great.

And since none of these stats are unavailable, hence the question about the selectors and their choices.

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I guess skipper Virat Kohli would have a lot to say about who should be in his squad. Fair enough. After all, he has to get the best out of the side, so he should have all the ammunition he needs. Plus there are several players missing.

Lokesh Rahul must really be cursing his luck, having missed out on what ultimately emerged as a fairly easy Test series with New Zealand.

Also missing in action now is Rohit Sharma, although frankly he has not done anything really to justify being called a Test batsman.

Shikhar Dhawan too is on the casualty list, though he too will be fortunate to get a look back in.

Pandya’s reaction to being selected was interesting, although predictable. He was on Twitter, thanking fans, selectors, fellow players and family, is a 40-character speech which was threatening to look like an Oscar acceptance monologue. This, even before he had received his Test cap.

I guess the media is different now and players, who are contractually obliged not to speak to the media without permission, can use it to their benefit at any time. This again brings us to access to the media and the selectors.

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Nevertheless, this is the best side that India could bring into action against England, who have had an interesting tour of Bangladesh.

England are struggling as a batting unit, make no mistake. They were at sea against the Bangladesh spinners in both Tests so it would only be fair to assume that the Indian lot of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra would be quite the handful.

Pity that all three are unlikely to be fielded together, though stranger things have happened. Mishra was quite in his elements in against New Zealand, but he is almost surely going to be carrying drinks as Kohli would go back to Ashwin and Jadeja. Initially anyway.

Also good to see Ishant Sharma back. He too has been quite the enigma of Indian cricket, but there is no doubt that when it comes to Test cricket and long spells, he has the heart of a lion.

It should be a great series. England are experts at being bad losers and extremely unpleasant on the field when the chips are down. In Kohli and Co., we have the worthy successors to Sourav Ganguly’s boys, to give it back in kind. Perfect for a hard-fought Test series.

Cheers for the West Indies: Finally, we again saw what used to be a norm in our younger days – the West Indies winning a Test match.

A five-wicket win over Pakistan in the UAE was something of a relief for all those who still believe in West Indian cricket. It was quite the sight to once again see the big, tall West Indian fast bowlers making the Pakistani batsmen jump.

Although it was specifically Devendra Bishoo’s leg-spin that paved the way for a West Indian win, after long we saw a fast bowler from the Caribbean claim five wickets, as skipper Jason Holder claimed.

But the player of the Sharjah Test, without doubt was opener Kraigg Brathwaite, who ended the match with a total of 202 runs without getting out, as he guided his side to a five-wicket win after negotiating something that was threatening to become quite a dodgy chase.

One doesn’t know if this will mark a change in the fortunes of West Indian cricket. One doubts it, but all the fans need is seeing a fight from the maroon caps. That would be quite something to watch.

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