Time to think about the future of some senior players in T20s
After failing to make it to the semi-finals of the ICC World Twenty20 for the third time in a row, some serious introspection is required by the BCCI as far as identifying right players for the shortest format of the game is concerned.
With the team failing to make an impact again, the new selection committee under the chairmanship of Sandeep Patil will have to think seriously whether they want a complete overhaul of the T20 side or focus on easing out some of the senior players from this particular squad.
If one tries to dissect the team's dismal Twenty20 campaign, the repeated failures of two seniormost cricketers -- Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan -- has dented India's chances to a large extent.
The mercurial opener played three matches in the tournament, scoring just 54 runs at an average of 18. He was rested for the England game and then dropped for the Australia game which was criticised by a lot of former players like Ravi Shastri and Aravinda de'Silva.
However, Sehwag never showed intent during the other three innings which raised serious questions as to whether he fits into this T20 side any more. If someone of Sehwag's talent is in the side, one expects him to play atleast till the 15th over and take the match away from the opposition, just like Chris Gayle does it for the West Indies.
Sehwag had repeatedly got out playing rash shots and the age-old execuse of "playing my natural game" isn't good enough. A more than capable off-spinner, it's also baffling to see why he doesn't bowl more often. Is it Dhoni's lack of faith in his bowling abilities or his troubled shoulder which had undergone surgery? In both cases then, his place in the team will come under increasing scrutiny.
Yesterday, skipper Dhoni half-heartedly defended Sehwag saying that "whenever the team does badly, these questions are raised", but isn't it inevitable after repeated failures from the man who is capable of doing more.
The next curious case is Zaheer Khan.
The 33-year-old pacer has manfully shouldered the burden of being the spearhead of the Indian attack for past few years but there are signs that his body is not ready to take rigours of all three formats. If India's campaign went wary in the island nation, it's because Zaheer failed to deliver during the opening overs. An economy rate of over seven meant that his team didn't get the momentum their way while bowling.
Not to forget Zaheer's poor fielding. Age has slowed him down considerably and he looked a complete liability in the field. Whenever he chased the balls, the batsmen already had two runs in their mind. In T20s, where each run saved is each run scored, it is difficult to hide someone like Zaheer. India still need a wily bowler like Zaheer in Test matches but it is certainly time to think about his alternative, not only in T20s but also ODIs.
The next is the sensitive issue of Yuvraj Singh. Having made a comeback after fighting the greatest battle of his life, the decision to include him was certainly an emotional one. In fact, one must applaud Yuvraj for his lion-hearted effort with the ball as he took eight wickets in the tournament at an economy rate of less than six runs per over.
However what India needs badly is 'Yuvraj Singh the batsman' more than the 'bowling all-rounder' that he has been in the tournament. His batting has been a bit scratchy but more matches Yuvraj plays, more effective he will become as India needs a player like him more than ever.
Few months back, Gautam Gambhir was considered as a captaincy material who can replace Mahendra Singh Dhoni but his patchy form across all formats has been a cause of concern for the Indian team. He hasn't scored a century in the Tests for the past two years and now his form in T20s has also deserted him. A meagre 80 runs from five matches meant that India never got the starts they desired as he only showed some stomach for fight in the match against England.
With the likes of Ajinkya Rahane knocking at the doors and the very talented Murali Vijay roaring back to form in the recently concluded Irani Trophy and Challenger Series, these are ominous signs for the left-hander from Delhi.
Irfan Pathan's performance has been sincere enough but with his mid-120's pace, even his swing is not able to save him from being hit. Pathan's economy rate of over 8.5 is something that Indian team can't afford over a period of time.
Harbhajan Singh's case is also interesting. The senior off-spinner made a glorious comeback against England but dropping him against South Africa, who are susceptible to spin bowling, was a surprising decision. Had Harbhajan bowled in place of Rohit Sharma, who knows it could have been different a different story.
Rohit has had one good innings against England but then someone who has got the highest number of chances in the history of Indian cricket (over 100 innings across two formats), one can't necessarily praise him for one odd good show after 20 flop shows.
The last but not the least is skipper Dhoni. His tendency to keep himself for the last three overs meant India were always short by 20 runs as he is India's best batsman in this format.
After five years, his captaincy also looks a bit jaded but as there are no likely options to replace him and his possible successor Virat Kohli still some years away from taking full responsibility, the wicket-keeper batsman is likely to remain in the hot seat for some more time.