With important series looming, imaginative and thoughtful selection could be decisive for India and Australia in the next few months.
Consequently, preferring Rahul Dravid over the impressive Cheteshwar Pujara for the first Test against New Zealand was a surprisingly timid move by the Indian panel.
Pujara received rave reviews for both his technique and temperament in his match-clinching innings against Australia.
While this isn't the Australian attack of the Shane Warne-Glenn McGrath era, they still don't go down without a fight. Pujara matched the Australians for aggression and outwitted Ricky Ponting's bowlers in what was an enterprising and influential knock. His confidence was high after that innings and if ever there was a right time to reward a young player, it was in the first Test against New Zealand.
However, the Indian selectors opted for a safety-first move when the situation cried out for a bit of imagination. Especially, after MS Dhoni had promoted Pujara to No. 3 against Australia with such stunning results.
Dravid is not the ideal player to bat at three. He's been hanging on by his finger nails for a while now and although he's never been a dominant player, he's even more prone to periods of stagnation in his declining years.
It seems pointless to have Virender Sehwag rattle the opposition with mercurial strokeplay at the top of the order and then risk the bowling side back into the contest while Dravid fights for survival.
The way Pujara played the horizontal bat shots was another reason to give him every opportunity to succeed before touring South Africa. Someone at the top of the order will need to defuse the Proteas' pace attack if India are to win on this tough tour. If Pujara had failed to grasp the opportunity against New Zealand, the selectors always had the option of returning Dravid to the middle order and using the more aggressive VVS Laxman at three in South Africa. Dravid's ton against the Kiwis was predictable. His selection was an opportunity wasted.