A disaster like the Indian team experienced in England should have shaken up the establishment but it looks like it has learnt little from it.One of the main reasons for the debacle was a lack of match fitness, which resulted in injuries, with Zaheer and Sehwag being the prime examples. The pace spearhead broke down on the first day of the Test series and Sehwag, hurried midway into the Test series, expectedly failed before being ruled out of the ODIs.
The Indian board was expected to be wiser from the experience, but when the selectors meet for first time since that humiliation, in Chennai on Thursday to pick the team for the ODIs against England (Oct. 14-29), the basic criterion is likely to be ignored again.
Some of the players who broke down in England are in the running for selection for the 5-match series, but shockingly, the selectors will have nothing but their past records to go by. No importance is being given to have the players prove their match fitness. Except for Gambhir and Harbhajan, who are playing in CLT20, none of the others who are recovering from injuries have played a game yet. Until Tuesday evening, the selectors had not received fitness reports either.
Zaheer and Sehwag triggered controversies as their injuries hadn't fully healed before their comebacks. Both Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh (fractured finger) were not considered for the Irani Cup (October 1-5).
"It will be ridiculous if players are brought back straight into international fold without being tested in domestic cricket," Anshuman Gaekwad, former India opener, coach and selector, told HT. "If it happens, it would mean all those concerned with decision-making have not learnt anything from their past mistakes."
What is intriguing is that the BCCI bigwigs asked the selectors not to consider players eligible for CLT20 for Irani Cup.
"The onus lies on the Board. It should make it mandatory for contracted players to play the Irani Cup and the Duleep Trophy, which I think are the most important tournaments in the domestic calendar," former India captain and chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar said. "Not only have these tournaments featured the cream of Indian cricket over the years, they have also given an opportunity for the selectors to check players' form and fitness. In that respect, I think even the Duleep Trophy needs to be played in October instead of February."
Sachin Tendulkar, who injured his big toe ahead of the ODI leg in England, is set to miss out. Rohit Sharma, recovering from a fractured finger, is likely to miss at least the first two ODIs. It remains to be seen if the selectors risk Ishant Sharma, who has a sore ankle.