How many chances do you give a cricketer? When it comes to the greats, Greg Chappell was of the view that it was better to err on the side of “one match too many than one too few”. He himself was one of the few to time his exit perfectly, signing off with 182 in a victorious series against Pakistan.
What of those at the other end of the experience spectrum though? How long do you invest in talent and hope for results? Despite missing out on the 2011 World Cup, Rohit Sharma has won plenty of one-day caps over the past half decade. Even when in wretched form in Sri Lanka earlier this season, he was given a full series to try and prove the detractors wrong. His obvious ability gave him additional chances that others were denied.
Ajinkya Rahane’s experience has been rather different. It’s easy to say that he hasn’t made the most of his opportunities. But for over a year now, Rahane has been a fringe player in the squad. That has meant limited game time in domestic cricket, and no opportunities in the Test arena, where he has seen Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara establish themselves in a remodelled middle order.
With match practice so scarce – and no number of net sessions can substitute for the real thing – Rahane has struggled for consistency when called up to the limited-overs team. There have been undoubted glimpses of class, but it took only three failures against England in the one-day series for him to be sidelined.
Dropcap OnA bit-part player for India, and now on the outer as Mumbai chase a 40thRanji Trophy title. It’s hard not to feel sorry for him, and to question the wisdom of carrying around a big squad in a home series. Ideally, the team management should settle on a 12, and release everyone else to play domestic cricket if it’s on at the same time.
Ajinkya Rahane has had limited game time in domestic cricket, and no opportunities in the Test arena, where he has seen Kohli and Pujara establish themselves in a remodelled middle order.
The plight of the bowlers has been even worse. Dhawal Kulkarni is back in the news now after eye-catching spells in the semifinal and final of the Ranji Trophy. How many remember, though, that he was part of the squad that toured New Zealand in 2009? He didn’t get a game, and when the team returned, he went the way of the Mary Celeste.
Abhimanyu Mithun bowled with great heart on graveyard-like pitches in Sri Lanka in 2010 as India came back to square the series. Yet, when a squad was picked for bowler-friendly South African conditions, his name wasn’t there. Jaidev Unadkat was one of those that went instead. He played one Test, at Centurion, and was promptly forgotten.
Parvinder Awana, who had shown fine form in the first-class arena prior to his call-up for the Nagpur Test, didn’t get a game there, but was played instead in Twenty20 games where he looked very much like someone playing the wrong format. Once these individuals slip out of the squad, there’s really no system in place to monitor them and make them feel as though they’re part of a larger bowling pool.
At 34, Zaheer Khan isn’t going to get better. Those that should have been his successors are either treading water or regressing, their confidence shot by dubious selection calls.
You could make an all-time-great XI with those who struggled initially in the international arena. Without a second chance, Steve Waugh or Matthew Hayden, not to mention Sourav Ganguly, would have been lost to the game. In these times when India loses more than they win, drastic change can be a seductive option. It just isn’t necessarily the right one.