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Opinion | India stock exchange: Fall and fall of our Test stars

A fact check indicates India’s top Test players, barring skipper Virat Kohli, have underperformed and their careers resemble a car in reverse gear, hurtling rapidly downhill.

cricket Updated: Oct 31, 2018 09:13 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
india vs australia 2018,india vs australia,virat kohli
India skipper Virat Kohli is an automatic choice, but the indifferent form of others wearing India colours makes their selection subject to discussion and debate.(AFP)

The selectors surprised everyone by announcing an all-inclusive jumbo team for Australia. An 18-member Test squad is unprecedented but there is a reason for Murali Vijay to return, Parthiv Patel to get one more go and Rohit Sharma to receive a wild card.

A fact check indicates India’s top Test players have underperformed and their careers resemble a car in reverse gear, hurtling rapidly downhill. Not sure who to trust to succeed in Australia — and confronted by collective decline — the selectors played safe and handed out boarding cards to whoever they could spot!

THE EXCEPTION

Virat Kohli dominates world cricket like no other — he is both Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar, ruthless domination combined with relentless hunger for runs. Unlike his colleagues, Kohli’s career is only going up and up. Kohli is an automatic choice but the indifferent form of others wearing India colours makes their selection subject to discussion and debate. Nobody apart from Kohli, to use an old cricket expression, walks into the team.

Ajinkya Rahane, the Test vice-captain, owned a wonderful away record and his calm presence was crucial for stability in the middle-order. But he was benched in South Africa and after England, where he was sadly tentative, the 52-Test veteran faces awkward questions: Has he lost confidence, or is it a deeper technical issue?

Cheteshwar Pujara is another whose stock has eroded, he is not anymore the solid number three who could bat all day to frustrate bowlers. Dropped in England from the Test team, Pujara too is going through a mini career crisis after 64 Tests, almost 5,000 runs and 15 hundreds.

More worrying is the recent career trajectory of various Indian openers. Murali Vijay, usually so dependable (59 Tests, 4,000 runs, 12 hundreds) was undone by the swinging ball in England. Discarded and dumped after two Tests, chief selector MSK Prasad has now thrown him a lifeline. His partner Shikhar Dhawan is not so lucky and it seems his red-ball career has hit a massive roadblock.

LUCKY AND ANNOYING

Unlike Shikhar , Rohit Sharma, the white ball champion with 21 centuries, has lucked out to earn a Test recall. Rohit has not been part of the Test group and not featured in any first-class cricket, no Ranji, no Duleep in 2018. Yet, given the uncertain form of others, he could open in the first Test at Adelaide (December 6-10).

Why KL Rahul remains annoyingly inconsistent and fails to nail a permanent place in Tests is a mystery. No less baffling is the confusion surrounding Karun Nair, who despite a Test triple hundred is totally out of the frame. He sat out the entire England tour, and disappeared after that.

Like batsmen, top Test bowlers are also experiencing a mini career slump. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are down a notch or two despite 521 wickets between them. Replaced first in limited over games, then put under pressure in five-day cricket. Ishant Sharma, the senior citizen among the quicks, bowled splendidly in England but none among Bhuvneshwar/Bumrah/Shami/ Umesh Yadav is sure of figuring in the first eleven.

Theories abound about the reasons for the decline of Indian Test players and their stock to crash. That India played a different XI in 38 successive Tests could be a factor.

(The author is a sports administrator and views are personal)

First Published: Oct 31, 2018 09:09 IST