Gambhir, Rohit, Ashwin lucky to escape the axe
Was Virender Sehwag the only reason for India's failure in the recent three-match One-Day International series against Pakistan?
The Indian selectors conveniently omitted the struggling opener from the ODI squad for the first three matches against England, while condoning other non-performers like Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin.
While Rohit, who was touted as the future of Indian cricket, is yet to live up to his potential, Gambhir is playing more with the edge of the bat rather than the middle of late and struggling against fast bowling, and Ashwin hardly made an impact in the last 12 months even on wickets offering assistance to spinners.
Image: Gautam Gambhir (left) with Virender Sehwag
Gambhir struggling against pacers
Gambhir hit two scratchy fifties in the second and third Tests against England, but other than that had no idea how to bat against the England pacers and, since then, is struggling to regain his confidence.
He scored 37 in the fourth and final Test in Nagpur on a wicket that had nothing for any bowler. In the following two T20 matches against England, which featured all inexperienced bowlers, he could manage only 16 and 17, while against Pakistan he scored a total of 64 runs in the two T20 games.
The left-hander was all at sea against Pakistan's pace duo of Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan and did not last beyond the 10th over in any of the ODIs while finishing the series with scores of 8, 11 and 15.
The upcoming England ODI series could prove decisive for Gambhir, because another poor run with the bat will certainly see the axe fall on him too.
Image: Gautam Gambhir
Consistency is Rohit's biggest problem
Rohit made his debut at the young age of 20, but after five years is still unable to seal a permanent berth in the team.
While consistency is his biggest problem, his off-field antics haven't helped either. Even though his performances in domestic cricket have been patchy this season, he still enjoys the support of the captain and the team management.
The Mumbai right-hander hit three half-centuries in a row against the West Indies in November-December 2011, but since then registered just one fifty in 15 innings. His last six innings' scores in ODIs read 5, 0, 0, 4, 4 and 4, but despite that he surprisingly finds a place in the ODI squad and also get matches on a regular basis.
His record in ODIs since making his debut in 2007 is uninspiring. 1978 runs scored in 86 ODIs, at an average of 30.43.
Image: Rohit Sharma
Photographs: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Ashwin continues to find favour with selectors
R Ashwin is another player blessed with good fortune and continues to find favour with the selectors irrespective of how he performs in the middle.
He bagged just 14 wickets in the three Tests against England, at an average of 52, despite getting to bowl on tracks that assisted spin, specially prepared on request of India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Pragyan Ojha, India's other spinner who was way ahead of Ashwin with a good tally of 20 wickets, at an average of 30.85, is still not considered good enough for the limited-overs' format.
Ashwin's figures look even worse when compared to England's spin duo of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar.
Swann took 20 wickets in the Test series, at an average of 24.75, while Panesar claimed 17 wickets in three Tests, an average of 26.82.
In the recent ODI series against Pakistan, Ashwin claimed just three wickets in three games and was, as matter of fact, hit for 47 runs in the last ODI despite bowling on a wicket where all the batsmen struggled for runs.
Image: R Ashwin
Selectors need to consider top performers in domestic cricket
There are others who also need to pull up their socks. Like Virat Kohli, who scored just 13 runs in the Pakistan ODIs.
Meanwhile, Dhoni's captaincy has come under a lot of criticism. The team lost the Test series at home to England, then drew both the two-match T20 series against England and Pakistan, before being beaten in the ODI series by the latter.
Unless there's a drastic change in personnel, it is hard to see the team returning to winning ways.
There is certainly no dearth in talent, as many players are showcasing their potential in domestic cricket. Consistent performers in this year's Ranji Trophy, like Madhya Pradesh's Ishwar Pandey (48 wickets in 8 matches), Punjab's Sandeep Sharma (41 wickets in 8 matches), Karnataka's wicketkeeper-batsman Muralidharen Gautam (938 runs in 9 matches), Gujarat's Parthiv Patel (895 runs in 8 matches) cannot be ignored. It is time the selectors take them seriously.