Yuzvendra Chahal, Kedar Jadhav and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s brilliant performances helped Team India create history by winning their first bilateral series in Australia. A disciplined bowling performance coupled with some telling contributions from India’s middle-order ensured Virat Kohli’s side comfortably defeated the Aussies. However, the resounding third-match win poses new headaches for the selection committee and team management, with the likes of Chahal and Jadhav stealing the limelight on the first time of asking.
India’s management have been pretty vocal about using the Australia and New Zealand series’ as blueprints for their 2019 World Cup squad, with an attempt to finalize a few key positions in the playing 11. India have an uncertainty on their third pacer, a middle-order batsman and potentially their prime spinner. They were therefore targeting this Australian tour to finalize these slots and keep a settled team for the World Cup which is to start late in May.
However, coming out of this series, the team order seems to be in greater disarray that before the series began. Captain Kohli and the others in the squad have vehemently suggested that Ambati Rayudu will be their designated number four batsman after a good showing against West Indies. However, a couple of poor games Down Under has seen the Hyderabad man replaced by Kedar Jadhav. On the first time of asking, Jadhav scored a match-winning fifty under pressure which helped India clinch the series; and also performed well with his part-time off-spinners.
Jadhav’s resurgence means that Indian selectors once again need to ponder over their starting 11 in the New Zealand series: Whether to persist with this combination which will see Rayudu get the raw deal of the bargain or tinker around elsewhere? And looking elsewhere might turn futile, India’s number six Dinesh Karthik has somehow managed to impress in his little cameos despite limited screen time. Even debutant Vijay Shankar had a memorable debut, giving away only 23 runs in his six overs which makes if difficult for selectors to axe him out of the starting eleven.
In the bowling department, the headaches seem are even more acute as neither Khaleel Ahmed nor Mohammed Siraj lived up to their billing in this tour. Bhuvneshwar Kumar performed admirably in the absence of compatriot Jasprit Bumrah but the auxiliary pacer’s position still seems vacant. Also, all three of Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav and Chahal performed admirably in a nation which has generally been hostile to their kind. Chahal’s six wickets in his only game this tour saw the leggie pick up the man of the match prize. Yadav’s mystery and variety were also too much to handle for the Australian batters with the 24-year-old failing only once in six times of asking.
Finally to Jadeja, whose economical bowling, eye-catching fielding and all-round abilities make him too good a player to keep in the dugout. In Hardik Pandya’s absence, the Saurashtra man provided the desired balance to the side as well. Letting him go in favour of the two specialist bowlers could end up pressurizing the batsman and exposing India’s long tail. Vijay Shankar could be the answer to the balance dilemma but his international inexperience and unproven capabilities might be a double edged sword for Ravi Shastri’s team.
With all of India’s fringe players performing well whenever called upon, India’s selection conundrum only deepens not for the lack of quality options but for having too many ‘matchwinners’ amongst their extended squad. The inevitable return of KL Rahul and Pandya will only further add to the confusion, meaning the Indian fans and players remain in the dark about the nation’s best eleven.