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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

India’s Plan A for Australia Tests and 2019 World Cup: Rest key players

With Australia Test series and World Cup in mind, Indian team's decision-makers decide to wrap stars in cotton wool.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Updated: October 13, 2018 9:48:19 am
Jasprit Bumrah during practice session. (Source: AP)

The meeting of the Indian team management and the Committee of Administrators (CoA) in Hyderabad on Wednesday focused on the immediate and not-too-distant future. While specifically deliberating on the upcoming series in Australia and the World Cup next year, it was decided that “resting key players” was to be a key part of the planning going ahead, The Indian Express has learnt.

“The two major issues discussed in the meeting had been about how to win in Australia and how to win the World Cup,” a source told this paper. India have lost their two overseas Test series this year – 2-1 in South Africa and 4-1 in England. Although most of the matches had been well-contested, India finished on the losing side. India will play four Tests in Australia, the first Test starting at the Adelaide Oval from December 6. Against a depleted Australian side sans Steve Smith and David Warner, India would like to notch up their first-ever series win Down Under. The meeting did some brainstorming in that regard. Chief selector MSK Prasad, too, was present.

The World Cup would be held in England from May 30 next year. With a little over seven months to go for the quadrennial showpiece, attention obviously has shifted towards it. “With an eye to that, the main focus was how to rotate players. In fact, more than rotation, it would be more about how to save our key players. That’s why you would see the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya, Mohammad Shami in and out of the squad, not playing regularly. The players who are important for all formats will be adequately taken care of. Going ahead also, these things will keep happening,” the source said.

Hardik Pandya is one of the players . (Source: AP)

The Indian ODI squad in South Africa had Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar, Shami and Shardul Thakur as the four frontline fast bowlers, with Pandya joining them as a seam-bowling allrounder. India thumped the hosts 5-1 in the six-match series and also won the three-match T20 series 2-1. Both Bumrah and Pandya had featured in all six ODIs there, while Bhuvneshwar played in five matches. Thakur had one match, Shami didn’t get a game.

The ODI squad in England for the three-match series, which India lost 2-1, had Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar, Thakur and Pandya as seamers, with Umesh Yadav and Siddarth Kaul joining the party. Shami wasn’t picked. Bumrah, however, had to be withdrawn due to a broken finger, while Bhuvneshwar played the third ODI at Leeds, aggravated his lower-back injury and missed the Test series. Pandya played in all three ODIs in England, Umesh and Kaul played two each and Thakur turned up in one game.

Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar returned for the Asia Cup in the UAE last month. Pandya and Thakur, too, had been part of the team before they broke down, with Deepak Chahar and Kaul replacing them. Khaleel Ahmed, a 20-year-old left-arm pacer from Rajasthan, was the greenhorn in the Asia Cup squad and put up decent performances in the two matches he played.

The selectors have rested Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar for the first two ODIs against West Indies, retaining Thakur and Ahmed, and bringing back Shami to the fold. Pandya is yet to recover from a back injury he suffered during the Asia Cup.

There’s a school of thought the constant chopping and changing is detrimental to stability. “Nobody likes to be dropped and brought back into the squad. We want everyone to be feeling safe and settled, so that they can play freely. As a captain or player, you want your team to be settled and even the guys who are eyeing that spot want to be settled,” Rohit, the stand-in captain for the Asia Cup, had said during the tournament. Rohit was invited to the CoA meeting, but to put things in perspective, he spoke about continuity while addressing the middle-order issues.

The CoA also adequately addressed the issue of having limited-overs matches before the Test series during overseas tours. “The BCCI ensured that in England. In Australia, it was slightly tough because of the Boxing Day Test. Still the BCCI managed that three T20 internationals would be played before the Test series and then the three ODIs.”

The meeting also discussed the day/night Tests and why India refused to play a pink-ball game in Australia. “Adelaide is our best chance (because of the nature of the Adelaide Oval surface) and it’s the first Test match. And suddenly we don’t want to be in a situation we are not familiar with. That’s the reason why we refused it play it and even the Cricket Australia was nice and understood that. For them it was more of a commercial reason that they wanted to do it.”

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