x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

India selectors must persevere with youngsters

India selectors must keep the likes of Jadeja and Ajinkya in the one-day side to accumulate experience and say farewell to the old guard of Tendulkar and co.

Ravindra Jadeja, centre, has enjoyed an impressive series so far against England, seen here dismissing Ravi Bopara during the fourth one-day international in Mumbai yesterday.
Ravindra Jadeja, centre, has enjoyed an impressive series so far against England, seen here dismissing Ravi Bopara during the fourth one-day international in Mumbai yesterday.

India's victory at Perth in January 2008 was significant in more ways than one.

It snapped Australia's winning streak at 16 and marked the first time in more than two decades that a team other than the West Indies had stormed one of the game's fortresses.

Gary Kirsten had not yet taken over the coaching role on a full-time basis, but as a consultant to the team led by Anil Kumble, he got a good look at what he would have to work with.

A day after the Test ended, a squad was chosen for the one-day tri-series.

It was afternoon in Western Australia when Sourav Ganguly's telephone rang. He had averaged 44 in 2007 and did not really expect a call from back home asking where he saw his one-day career heading.

He said that he would like one final tilt at Australia. He did not get it.

One of the two selectors on tour was not in favour of dropping him, but after several calls back and forth, the team management got their wish. Ganguly would not add to his 308 appearances for India.

He was not the only one to be cut adrift, either. Rahul Dravid had 21 more caps at that stage, and was on a Swan River cruise when the selectors tried to reach him.

He eventually found out his fate from the media. Over the next four years, he would play just 11 more times. But there would be no World Cup fairy tale.

At the time, there was considerable heartburn in India over the treatment meted out to two of the team's stalwarts.

But MS Dhoni, who had won the World Twenty20 with a young squad months earlier, stood by the new guard and his faith was rewarded with victory in the tri-series.

One of the stars of that campaign was Gautam Gambhir, who replaced Ganguly in the top order.

Before that tour, Gambhir had struggled to justify his selection, averaging just 30.67 from 37 games.

In the years since, he has scored at an average of 47.11 over 80 games. There have been seven hundreds, but he is destined to be remembered for the one he missed, the 97 in last April's World Cup final - the most important one-day innings played by an Indian.

Rohit Sharma also starred in that tournament, but as India fine-tuned their preparations for 2011, the two youngsters that had pivotal roles to play were Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli. R Ashwin was blooded a few months before the competition, while Yusuf Pathan was employed sporadically for his big hitting.

Ultimately, though, it was experience that won India the trophy, with eight of the starting XI boasting more than 100 caps. And as the celebrations went on long into the Mumbai night, you could not escape that end-of-an-era feeling.

For Sachin Tendulkar, in particular, the wait had lasted two decades. He has not announced his retirement from one-day cricket, but it is hard to imagine a swan song more perfect than the one that his teammates orchestrated for him in front of his home crowd.

There was no Tendulkar as India took on England in Mumbai last night, and the team that had already sealed the five-match series with two games to play contained just five of those that had played the World Cup final.

Having lost 3-0 in England with a squad ravaged by injury, India were forced to look to the future for this ODI series.

It has paid handsome dividends, with the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, R Vinay Kumar and Umesh Yadav making vital contributions to the series success.

India batsmen and bowlers have usually thrived in home conditions, but what has been surprising for many has been the standard of the India fielding.

With younger legs and stronger arms out there, they have been more than a match for England.

The important thing now is to trust in their ability even once the old stagers return from injury.

Tendulkar is unlikely to push for a place, having played sparingly in the build-up to the World Cup. But he is not the only one with little part to play in the team's future.

Zaheer Khan is 33 and given the fitness issues he has had over the past few years, it is hard to see him making it as far as the next World Cup in 2015. The same goes for Virender Sehwag, who has spent much of his convalescence promoting his new school on the outskirts of Delhi.

Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh have also been around for a decade, as has Ashish Nehra, who broke a finger in the World Cup semi-final. Nehra's exclusion from this squad suggests a determination to look forward that must not waver even if the results are not always as excellent as they have been against England.

The younger batsmen will be tested in Australia early next year, but they must be persevered with so that they can accumulate the sort of experience that Raina and Kohli had heading into the 2011 World Cup.

Mohinder Amarnath, man of the match in the semi-final and final of the 1983 World Cup, appears to be the man pulling the strings in the selection committee and he has been fairly open about the need to invest in the future.

A couple of Dhoni's requests for familiar faces in this squad were refused, and there are bound to be more tugs of war when the West Indies tour and India head to Australia.

Having won a World Cup with one generation, India must be strong enough to thank them and prepare for the next with a new and hungry group of players.