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Listless India keep Pujara, Pandey out

india Updated: Mar 06, 2014 00:39 IST
Anand Sachar
asia cup 2014

The string of losses has marred India's reputation and reluctance to embrace change has hindered the resurrection.

India's victories have simply dried up since the home series against Australia and West Indies late last year. The win against Bangladesh halted the losing streak, which has been further highlighted by the failure to make the Asia Cup final after defeats against Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

India met Afghanistan in their final match on Wednesday. In a match of little consequence, asking the reserves to showcase their talent was the only aspect to look forward to. India had other plans, but whether it stemmed from the fear of another defeat or the hesitation to play certain players was not clear.

Kept waiting
The batsmen, barring Virat Kohli, had flopped. The bowlers, especially the pacers, failed to restrict oppositions. Varun Aaron was dispatched to the bench after a poor game against Bangladesh while Stuart Binny was given a solitary game. Cheteshwar Pujara was left to bat only in the nets, which he did even when the rest decided to rest. Pace bowler Ishwar Pandey kept hoping for a game, like he did in New Zealand, but nothing came of it.

Amit Mishra's inclusion against Pakistan and Afghanistan was the only change enforced. The lack of other changes despite the leg-spinner impressing with flight and sharp turn evoked further surprise.

Ignoring Pujara, included for the Asia Cup to stabilise a shaky middle-order, and Pandey, in the team to infuse freshness to the pace attack, defied logic. The highest wicket-taker in the 2012-13 Ranji season impressed in the warm-up game in New Zealand, but that is the closest he has come to play for the national team.

Former India captain, Sunil Gavaskar, wondered if the team management was intent on playing 'favourites'.

"It is baffling that Ishwar Pandey and Pujara are not given a chance. Are they worried that if they do well then their favourite batsman or bowler will not be able to get their place in the team?" Gavaskar fumed on air prior to the start of the game.

Stand-in skipper Virat Kohli justified the selection by claiming it was necessary for the team to develop as a unit.

The refusal to hand a game to players has plagued the team for a while now, and the string of losses has brought the issue to the fore.