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The curious case of selections


As Team India’s early birds landed in Australia, they grappled with the news that Varun Aaron joined fellow fast bowler Praveen Kumar on the sidelines. Vinay Kumar, the Karnataka medium-pacer, has filled in the breach. He pipped Irfan Pathan on the strength of his performances in the ongoing One-Day International (ODI) series.
When Praveen Kumar got injured, the selectors included Abhimanyu Mithun, who has been on the fringes of the Test and ODI squad for quite some time. As the pace bowling department suffered another setback, they decided to bring in Vinay who has been a part of the ODI squad and had toured Australia earlier this year with the Emerging Players squad.
Vinay lacks in pace and relies mainly on hitting the right channels and subtle movements off the seam. However, the margin for error for a bowler like him is very small. With that unthreatening pace, if he gets his line or length wrong even by a small margin, he goes for runs. The selectors have taken a very brave call by picking him for the tour of Australia.
Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma should form India’s fast bowling triumvirate. If they remain fit throughout the series, it would be a blessing for India. In all likelihood, India would play the trio in the Tests. However, on the spin-friendly track of Sydney, the team management may be tempted to play two spinners and may drop one of the fast bowlers - that is if they decide to play four bowlers. Under the circumstances, it’s difficult for Mithun and Vinay to get a place in Test eleven.
Nevertheless, India needs to have a good back-up for the three and Vinay’s selection doesn’t inspire that confidence. It doesn’t look like he can threaten or make early inroads in the longer version. He may have had a few decent ODIs, but that shouldn’t be the criteria to fast track him into the Test squad. His pace and movement doesn’t have enough zing to trouble the batsmen consistently.
People may say that he bowls as fast as Praveen Kumar, but the latter can get the ball to move a long way in both directions and is very accurate. The bowler who gets closest top Praveen Kumar is Irfan Pathan, who should have been chosen ahead of Mithun. He may not be as accurate as the Praveen, but can match his movement in the air and off the wicket.  
It is really absurd that the selectors have ignored Pathan for the second straight time and have chosen another player. In fact, they have chosen a player who cannot move the ball like Praveen nor can bowl as fast as Aaron.
Mithun’s selection makes more sense than Vinay as he has shown the ability to run in hard, hit the deck, and give it everything on unhelpful surfaces. If groomed, he can bowl at a faster pace and deliver the goods for India. But, Vinay doesn’t exhibit any of these attributes. That’s why his selection is an unpleasant surprise.
If the selectors did not want to pick Pathan, they could have looked at Jaydev Unadkat. They selected Aaron on the basis of promise and could have done the same with Unadkat, whose talent promises a lot for the future. The Saurashtra seamer may not have done very well this season, but if Aaron can be a priority, he too can be a serious contender.
When the India Emerging Players Team toured Australia earlier this year, Vinay was India’s second most successful bowler behind Aaron. That may have played on the minds of the selectors while naming him as Aaron’s replacement. But that shouldn’t have tricked the selectors in ignoring Pathan, who has has done well in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season and has also done well in Australia.

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