Indian bench strength stands exposed

The much-vaunted Indian bench-strength has been exposed and pretty badly at that after today's loss. Virender Sehwag, captaining in the absence of Rahul Dravid, lasted exactly five balls and did not even bowl. Why don't Indian captains who can bowl, don't bowl? Ganguly was another such captain.

Mohammed Kaif continues his bad form, but at least he contributed
more than Sehwag (15 vs 4). In a recent article, Sunil Gavaskar had
said
that India needs to test the bench players so they are match-ready
whenever required. By continuing to play disastrously out of form
players like Kaif and Sehwag, this will never happen. In his column, he
wrote:

"…The form of Mohammad Kaif for example is worrying, as he has not scored
runs for some time now and still holds on to a place in the squad. Not
many others have been so fortunate to stay in the squad after so many
games without scoring runs, and unless the same yardstick is applied,
how will we find out if we have a bench-strength if others aren't given
at least half the chances that some players are always given?
…"

I can't help but agree with this simply because it makes horse sense. Playing your reserve players in non-pressure (or consequence) matches is important to have them "match-fit" and give them international exposure and experience. Take the case of R P Singh… after some pretty good performances in Pakistan where he picked up 8 wickets (second only to Irfan Pathan's 9), he was completely ignored for this series so far. R P Singh also had the best economy rate and average for the Pak ODIs.

Sree Santh is one for the future as are VRV Singh and Munaf Patel and they should get chances in the same ratio. It is not fair to expect these guys to just turn up and have a winning hand immediately. If Sehwag and Kaif, after being there for more than 10 matches on the trot can't do it, why expect these newcomers to?

Sehwag's bad form has continued for far too long. He is supposed to be one of the 'seniors' and top players in the team now. But he just does not show any responsibility in his batting at all. While he started with a bang today, his technique let him down again. Would it be asking for too much to if I said he should take a month off and go back to the nets? Maybe even miss the first Test against the West Indies?

I hope that Kaif does not get the nod for the WI tour. There are players who are far more deserving (like S Sriram mentioned above) who should tour. As for the middle order, bring back Laxman. He is a specialist in that position and still has at least a couple of seasons left in him.

What was on display today was the lack of bench strength. India have had either Dravid, Tendulkar or Ganguly in every single ODI over the last 10 years and they are being sorely missed here. But looking ahead, the time is not too far when neither will be available and that would be a permanent situation as against the temporary one right now.

Tendulkar will return but we all know he is not the same old batsman of yore. Dravid will play the way he know and will continue to dig in and show results. Ganguly may never play again. Of these stars from the last decade or so, Laxman is the only one with enough experience to guide the middle order (assuming Tendulkar would be in and out of the team with injuries) and must be treated well.

And please, play the back up. You never know when the mainframe will crash. Always have back up ready. Golden rule…

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