India tour of Zimbabwe: A not-so-happy headache for India selectorshttps://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket/a-not-so-happy-headache-for-india/

India tour of Zimbabwe: A not-so-happy headache for India selectors

With big names complaining of fatigue and ‘A’ team players occupied, selectors face Zimbabwe tour dilemma.

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It’s learnt from a BCCI source that Virat Kohli and Ravichandran Ashwin aren’t keen to go to Zimbabwe.

The recent One-day International (ODI) series loss against Bangladesh was down to fatigue, at least according to captain MS Dhoni and the official report. Dhoni repeatedly spoke about India’s non-stop cricket and an urgent requirement to recharge the batteries. India have been playing almost without a break over the past 11-odd months and the cricketers say they deserve some rest before the new season.

The tour of Zimbabwe was on the verge of cancellation over the broadcasting rights issues. But an eleventh hour solution has revived it and India is all set to play three ODIs and a couple of T20 internationals at Harare, starting July 10. The national selectors will meet in Delhi on Monday to pick the squads for the tour. Several top players are reportedly reluctant to go.

The selectors insist they haven’t received any request from any cricketer yet to spare them the toils. According to a source, however, both Virat Kohli and Ravichandran Ashwin are not keen to go. Dhoni is fifty-fifty, while there’s a question mark over Umesh Yadav as well. It has been learnt that the selectors wanted to try a new set of fast bowlers for this tour but that’s unlikely to happen.

Thin reserves

With India ‘A’ playing a home tri-series involving Australia ‘A’ and South Africa ‘A’ from July 19, the first-choice reserves would be occupied. This is Rahul Dravid’s maiden assignment as India ‘A’ coach and he wants to field a strong team.

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According to the source, Dravid had a meeting with India’s assistant coach Bharat Arun — who looks after the bowling department — last evening to take stock of the fast bowling options. So the selectors might have to pick the tried and tested for the Zimbabwe tour despite the fact that they fared badly in Bangladesh.

The seam bowling quartet of Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni and Mohit Sharma collectively gave away 289 runs in 43.4 overs in the three matches in Bangladesh, bagging only eight wickets between them. It prompted Dhoni to lose his cool and launch and uncharacteristic attack.

“We need to make a decision if we want quick bowlers or if we want good bowlers even if they’re not quick. We’ve been backing too many quick bowlers who haven’t been bowling well,” the skipper bellowed. Ishant Sharma or Varun Aaron might be brought in to strengthen ranks.

As for captaincy, a section of the BCCI wants Dhoni to go to Zimbabwe because he’s retired from Test cricket and will get enough time to cool his heels in the next few months. Still, if he opts out, and Kohli being unlikely to tour, Rohit Sharma or Suresh Raina will lead the team.

Robin Uthappa and Wriddhiman Saha/Naman Ojha are the prime contenders to fill the gaps, should Kohli and Dhoni be allowed to rest. Ashwin’s absence might leave the door ajar for Harbhajan Singh in the shorter format as well.

The selectors have to take a call on Ravindra Jadeja. The southpaw was India’s weak link in the World Cup with 57 runs (average 14.25) and nine wickets (average 39.66) from eight matches. He was poor in Bangladesh also, scoring 51 runs (average 25.50) and taking only one wicket (average 76.00) in two matches.

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Meanwhile, the selectors will also pick the India ‘A’ team for the tri-series during Monday’s meeting. Cheteshwar Pujara is set to lead the young group.

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