The selectors' idea of trying out the bench strength in the ODI series against the West Indies failed big time, says Bikash Mohapatra.
No Sachin Tendulkar, no Virender Sehwag either.
Even captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni wasn't there.
Other experienced players like Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan too preferred to give it a miss.
And that meant the Indian squad for the one-day series against the West Indies largely comprised reserve players.
The explanation was two-fold. Some of the names mentioned above were nursing injuries; others simply wanted to take rest, thanks, but no thanks, to the grotesquely packed international calendar for Team India.
Whatever the reason, but when the selectors chose Suresh Raina to lead the Indian squad, it elicited divergent opinions. The eternal optimists expectedly came up with smiling faces. The senior players would get a much deserved break, they opined. The tour would be an apt opportunity to test the bench strength and give them some international exposure, they said.
The critics palpably questioned the decision to rest so many senior players at the same time and send what was largely a second-string squad to the Caribbean.
True, the selectors had to keep in mind an important tour of England that comes up close on the heels of the series in the Caribbean.
Admitted the standard of cricket in the West Indies has declined drastically in recent years. So much so that even a reserve Indian squad was considered good enough to win the ODI series (which they did, just, to be fair the winning margin in the end 3-2).
But their one question remained unanswered.
How could so many senior players be rested at the same time for an away tour?
All the players rested featured prominently in the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League which preceded the tour. So how could they all be allowed a break at the same time?
There are two logical explanations: Either the Indian think-tank -- players, selectors and everyone concerned -- completely underestimated the opposition, thereby sending a squad just because the series happened to be a part of the FTP, or considering the huge volume of cricket that India is playing these days the selectors had made clear their future course of action that the regular players will, henceforth, be allowed to skip lesser tours and reserves be given a chance.
And this gave rise to another question.
Did the reserve players make the most of the opportunity? Did the selectors' idea of trying out the bench strength succeed?
The answer would be in the affirmative if one took into consideration a few notable performances, say Rohit Sharma's or even Amit Mishra's. (Let's keep Virat Kohli out of this as he has more or less consolidated his place in the national team)
But, on the whole, it would be a negative. For, the likes of Yusuf Pathan, Shikhar Dhawan, S Badrinath, Manoj Tiwary, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma et al didn't exactly avail the opportunity.
Even the stand-in captain flattered to deceive.
Raina's first assignment as national captain, the tri-series in Zimbabwe last year, was a disaster. The youngster failed as a batsman and leader, his team failing to make it to the final, having lost twice to minnows Zimbabwe.
On this occasion, Raina the captain succeeded. The quality of the opposition notwithstanding, statistics will always reflect a 3-2 series win.
However, Raina the batsman failed to deliver. Again, stats will corroborate this fact. In his five innings, the 24-year-old scored just 82 runs (@ 20.50), clearly indicating the additional responsibility had affected his batting.
Those grooming even considering Raina as the future captain better take note!
As for the other names mentioned above, they have to wait for their next opportunity. Maybe, they will get a chance when the Caribbeans come to the subcontinent later this year. For the moment, though, this series was a lost cause.
Was the idea of trying out so many reserve players at one go a sensible one? Did it put undue pressure on these players?
These and many other such queries demand an explanation, an elaborate one at that.
But now that India has won the series, all these questions will be conveniently left unanswered, rather forgotten.
Till the next time