The fact that Ishant Sharma has taken a number of wickets in the first test will mean that the wayward bowler will be persisted with when the team for the second test is finalized. Including Zaheer Khan will be another compulsion, since the veteran is still erroneously thought of as India’s bowling spearhead. And since Mohd. Shami is bowling reasonably well, he will continue as the third seamer in the team for the Wellington test, which begins tomorrow, February 14, 2014. So nothing will change in India’s bowling attack. For the second time in less than six months, a promising bowler will return home after warming the benches. This farce of including new bowlers, who come back without playing a single important match, is an overt pointer to the lack of seriousness on the part of India’s cricket managers. When Virat Kohli went to Zimbabwe, his team had the promising Parvez Rasul, who came back without being capped. Rasul could have easily been included in the team for the last game, since India had already completed the demolition of Zimbabwe by then. Now Ishwar Pandey faces the same situation. In all probability, Pandey will return home uncapped. If the captain and the cricket manager decide to play Pandey, they will deserve kudos for the bold step. Time only will tell that. Pandey’s only exposure of the tour was in a warm-up game, before the 2-match test series. In that match Pandey bowled quite creditably but that performance did not any credence, when the team for the first test was announced. The Indian team faces an almost complete whitewash in New Zealand, where their awfully weak bowling attack is being duly complemented by poor show by the topline batsmen. An odd century or a fifty, here and there, has come, when everything was very nearly lost.
Life out of home is a bit different for Indian cricketers. At home, they are the lions, who become submissive pets on overseas soils. Off the field, they could be falling prey to a swinging lifestyle practiced by locals and that sometimes can become a reason for poor performance on the field. The cricket press reported some days back that two frontline New Zealand players were found drinking until 3 AM on the first morning of the Auckland test. These two were Jesse Ryder and Doug Bracewell and New Zealand Cricket promptly excluded them from selection consideration for the second test. Thankfully, though no Indian cricketer has been faulted for a similar offence; there is news of a different kind that can likely affect the concentration of play. Fortunately for Virat Kohli, he came up with a reasonably good knock in the second innings of the Auckland test; otherwise fingers would have begun pointing in his direction for his off-field forays with girlfriend Anushka Sharma. Anushka flew to Auckland to be with Kohli and the two were spotted holding hands, while strolling in city streets. They were also seen in some restaurants and malls. Nothing wrong with that since accompanying wives and girlfriends, a term which also goes with a popularly known acronym of WAGS, are found to steady players in all sports. Another disturbing factor, which had begun doing the rounds in the last few days, is the indictment of Gurunath Meiyappan, the Chennai Super Kings team principal. A Supreme Court Panel held that Meiyappan was guilty of IPL spot fixing. The panel report places emphasis on players, who hold business interests in companies, which manage their endorsements. Such ruling affects India captain MS Dhoni, who held 15% stakes in Rhiti Sports Management. There are also reports in the media about the match-fixing involvement of some other CSK players, who are currently on duty for the touring Indian team. Such allegations are also likely to affect players’ concentration, and therefore, the overall team performance.
With India losing its status as top ODI nation and slated for further comedown in test rankings too, it will require some serious thinking on the part of cricket selectors about building a better team for future. Except for Virat Kohli, and Dhoni to some extent, no other cricketer has shown consistency in the ongoing series. That India’s top spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin, had to play a second fiddle to Ravindra Jadeja is a disturbing case in point. Bowling woes aside, even the batting has cracked. And it is not just in New Zealand, the story has continued since India’s tour of South Africa, where the batsmen failed against quality pace bowling. Once in a while, the batsmen have come good, but the consistency is clearly missing. Also there is a perceptible decline in fielding. It is time corrective steps were taken for stemming the rot, before it become too late.