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At Lord’s, India should get the selection right

In the 36 matches that he had led India before Edgbaston, Kohli had not retained the same eleven even once.

editorials Updated: Aug 08, 2018 18:16 IST
Hindustan Times
The fact that skipper Virat Kohli scored 200 runs at Edgbaston while the rest of the 10 could put up only 214 between them, may justify playing an extra batsman in the second test at Lord’s (Action Images via Reuters)

As India bid to level the Test series against England at Lord’s on Thursday, it will need to get the team selection just right. Time and again in Tests outside Asia under the captaincy of Virat Kohli, India has missed a trick in terms of picking the perfect eleven. It is tempting to speculate that had that not happened, this Indian team would have had more success on demanding away tours than they have had so far.

Earlier this year in South Africa, Kohli picked Rohit Sharma ahead of the technically proficient Ajinkya Rahane in the first two Tests. Sharma failed in both Tests; India missed the technical solidity that is so required against the moving ball, and lost both matches. It was not merely in the batting department. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, India’s most successful bowler in the first Test at Cape Town, was dropped for the second Test. Rahane was finally chosen for the third Test, as was Kumar. India won the final Test. But the series had already been squandered. Had the selection been less misguided, it is easy to imagine that a 1-2 series loss could well have turned out to be a historic 2-1 series win.

In the first Test of the ongoing series, too, we have seen baffling selections. Shikhar Dhawan, who averages 24.75 away from home in the last five Tests, played in the match. Kohli is obsessed with form going in to a game. Dhawan’s scores in the tour match against Essex that preceded the Test? Zero, and zero in the two innings. Cheteshwar Pujara, with a great deal of experience of playing in county cricket, was ignored. Kohli scored 200 runs over two innings in the Edgbaston Test. The other ten batsmen managed 214 between them. It is no one’s case that Pujara alone would solved the problem. But it is undeniable that he brings technique and grit to bear upon proceedings. He does not throw his wicket away with a lazy waft outside the off stump. Had even one or two of KL Rahul, Pujara and Rahane been able to get stuck in, the outcome could have been different. India needed just one more solid batting partnership to snatch the Test from England. It did not get them. So fine are these margins.

India did not, as was widely expected, play two spinners in Edgbaston. Who knows what might have happened if Ravichandran Ashwin had found a wily partner? At Lord’s, with the surface baking in the London summer sun, two spinners may be just the ticket.

In 36 Tests as captain, Kohli has never retained a playing eleven. It is time to maintain the record, and usher in the changes that will give India an edge.

First Published: Aug 08, 2018 18:15 IST