Indian players celebrate the fall of a wicket against New Zealand in the World Cup 2023. Pic/AFP
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While no praise is enough for India's sprightly bunch of 'Gen-Next' stars for having undermined the newly-crowned world champions Australia on home turf, the selection headache for the management in the buildup to next year's T20 World Cup is likely to kick in sooner than later.
Whether it is good to have choices rather than being run out of options opens room for discussion, especially when it comes to selecting a playing XI for a tournament as vital as the World Cup. Selectors are a bit like wicketkeepers because they come to notice only when they commit unforgivable errors. Often so distant from the fray, they do not usually receive plaudits, only brickbats. The long-range impacts of their decisions are not often considered in totality, but the concept of the selector as a 'hate figure' has existed since forever.
Selection isn't about ego or arranging farewells for great players. It is only about picking the best XI to win a match. Players being rotated, chopped, and churned is the new normal. And it is for the greater good.
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"Gone are the days when a player would comfortably play till his 40s. These days, the competition is so intense that each time there is a selection, fans just find reasons to be unhappy. My heart goes out to those sitting at the top. The trick is to utilise this talent in the best possible manner, and in order for that to happen, we must be willing to give enough chances. Sachin Tendulkar also started from scratch once, we all have been there. Good things take time. Who knew Hardik Pandya's injury would make way for Mohammed Shami and that he would be brilliant this World Cup? Now we can't be looking beyond this chap if we are to get wickets, notice the change," a former BCCI official told Mid-Day, on conditions of anonymity.
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But too many experiments can lead selectors to run into pitfalls they might find hard to recover from, he insists. "They must follow a rotation policy. Rest should not be seen as an option, but mandatory. If so many (players) in your second string team are performing well on a consistent level, you must also take your chances, perhaps one at a time. This way they will learn to cope with pressure. Virat (Kohli) and Rohit (Sharma) are fixed at the top of our order, but those two are not here forever. KL (KL Rahul), is available to play at all positions. Surya (Suryakumar Yadav) has been exceptional in the middle. We have a new finisher in Rinku (Singh) and Jitesh (Sharma). I guess all that I'm trying to say is if you don't trust the youngsters with bat and ball, chances are you may end up losing the raw talent they possess."
That Team India boast of an enviable problem namely the âproblem of plenty' is secret to none. Having too many players at one's disposal makes it easier to play around with options. Yet, at times, though rare, the conundrum of having to choose between the abounding alternatives throw even the best of machinery into complete disorder. There is a reason to believe that âtoo many cooks spoil the broth'.
IPL reigns supreme
The cash-rich Indian Premier League, meanwhile, has only added to the woes. If not anything, the inclusion of Rinku, Jitesh, Suryakumar, Ishan Kishan, Mukesh, Bishnoi in the India squad has accentuated the significance of faring well in the IPL.
"I blame the IPL to an extent. Domestic matches have lost their vigour these days. People say players are into money, so they are more keen on performing in the IPL than a Ranji or Vijay Hazare (Trophy Series). But the truth is, we all are slowly resigning ourselves to only 20 overs, it takes only a single over to become a cricket sensation and players know IPL can give them that. It is easy for selectors to spot you, but so much harder for selectors to select you."
Boon or bane?
India's âproblem of plenty' brings back bitter memories from the South African dugout in the 2015 World Cup. The side possessed enough talent to finally do away with their âchoker' tag as the semi-final stage dawned upon them, but it was a familiar sight of them coming unstuck. While the Proteas ticked off all the boxes in the league phase, one wrong selection, owing to the predicament of having an option of too many, cost them dearly. Kyle Abbott, despite his wicket-taking abilities, was replaced by Vernon Philander, who failed to live up to his billing when it mattered the most.
India have only six T20Is and an IPL between now and the next World Cup, to be played in the West Indies and the USA in June. With next year's cricket extravaganza drawing nearer, fortunately for India, the selectors have not erred so far. World Cup or not, the Blue Brigade look on course to bend the problem of plenty to their advantage. Too many cooks do spoil the broth, yet sometimes they make the delicacy delectable.