On new year’s eve, all-rounder Stuart Binny had been named in the One-day International squad for the series against the Black Caps. With the 50-over World Cup to be played in seamer-friendly conditions in Australia and New Zealand in 2015, Binny’s inclusion was seen as an internship opportunity handed out to the allrounder.
Since then, Binny has bowled one over for eight runs — his international debut — in the only ODI (Hamilton) he played on the tour of New Zealand. He was dismissed for a duck before conceding 22 in four overs against Sri Lanka at the Asia Cup, his second and last match till date for India.
Impressed with his 2013 IPL exploits, the selectors had also included him in the squad for the World T20 in Bangladesh, a tournament where he warmed the bench.
It is too early to judge Binny, the son of former India cricketer and current South Zone selector Roger Binny, because he has had too few opportunities in the shorter formats of the game. But so far, captain MS Dhoni, even though he desperately needs a medium-pace all-rounder, has not been prepared to place his faith in Binny.
In this context, the decision to include Binny in the 18-member Test squad for the tour of England looks like a huge leap of faith as well as an odd promotion. As he is not even a regular in the playing XI in ODIs or even T20 Internationals, there are bound to be questions over Binny’s place in the Test side.
But there is a logical explanation to Binny being picked for the Test squad. He fits into a slot India have found hard to fill over the years. In the absence of a batsman who can double-up as a medium pacer, Dhoni has struggled to field a balanced team in overseas conditions — where spinners have a limited role and adding a fifth bowler means a frontline batsman has to be sacrificed.
This is a role that Irfan Pathan performed before he faded away because of a combination of a drop in form and frequent injuries. Sourav Ganguly, Ajit Agarkar and Sanjay Bangar have added balance to the Test side by performing dual roles with mixed success.
Over the past couple of seasons, Binny has been consistent in First-Class cricket when representing Karnataka but Test cricket away from home may prove to be a completely different ball game should the bits-and-pieces all-rounder get a look-in.
Nihal is a senior assistant editor based in Delhi.