When India opted to pack their playing XI with regulars for the inconsequential game today against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup, team fringe players Saurabh Tiwary and Ravichandran Ashwin joined the long list of players who have returned home without any action on field, reports Indian Express.
The decision to keep out the two talented youngsters highlighted the disconnect between the team management and the national selection committee. The left-handed Tiwary, picked by selectors as the replacement for Yuvraj Singh in the middle order, had been asked to cut short the India A tour in England to be part of the Asia Cup squad. But being on drinks duty during in Sri Lanka tour means he even missed out on the England experience.
Equally baffling is the case of Ashwin. The off-spinner was first picked for the two T20 games against Sri Lanka at home last year and after that has been part of four ODI squads. But the man, who is seen as the replacement for Harbhajan Singh, has played just one ODI and two T20s games — all of them during the recent Zimbabwe series when the seniors were rested.
Despite impressive international outings — he scored 38 from 32 balls and took 2/50 in his ODI debut at Harare — Ashwin hasn't got skipper Dhoni's confidence. With Harbhajan rested, the offie all-rounder would have been a perfect replacement but the team management opted to go for the tried-and-tested Pragyan Ojha.
Kiran More, former chairman of selectors, sees no logic in resting budding youngsters in dead-rubber games. “Saurabh Tiwary and Ravichandran Ashwin should have played against Sri Lanka. This is not the first time players are picked for a tour but then not even given a chance in inconsequential games. It clearly points to a difference in the thinking of the selectors and team management,” More told the Indian Express.
More believes off-spinner Ashwin is good enough to make the cut for India's World Cup team. “He has the skill and the temperament to play at the highest level. He has good control and he can also bat. I am not saying he is as good as Harbhajan as a spinner but unless Ashwin is given a break regularly how will one know where he stands. But make no mistake, among those who are knocking on the doors of the Indian team, Ashwin is best-placed to make the World Cup squad.”
A national selector, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: “In away games, the tour national committee consisting of captain and coach decide the eleven. Such things have happened so often in Indian cricket but we have decided that we won't discard a player without giving a chance. Tiwary and Ashwin will get their chance in future.”
Just last month, a similar selection muddle had come to fore. During the Zimbabwe tour when pacer R Vinay Kumar got injured, the selectors pulled Abhimanyu Mithun from the India A tour party to England. Surprisingly, Mithun didn't get a game in Zimbabwe as Vinay Kumar miraculously recovered to play the subsequent T20 games. Mithun, meanwhile, missed the England tour too since another pacer had already taken his place.
Over the years, several fringe players have been reduced to tourists because of the skipper's reluctance to play them. Pankaj Singh (Australia, 2007-08), Manoj Tiwary (Australia, 2008 tri-series), Ranadeb Bose (England, 2007), Rajesh Pawar (Bangladesh, 2007) have returned home with no or minimum action on field.
At times, there have been instance when selectors have thrown their weight in the selection meeting to push a player but the captain has had the final laugh by keeping him on bench during a tour.
The old school theory of a youngster learning from travelling with the national team doesn't quite hold water in times of the Indian Premier League. Tiwary had been sharing the Mumbai Indian dressing with Sachin Tendulkar for the last three years while Ashwin has seen Dhoni from close quarters while wearing the Chennai Super Kings jersey.