India has an envious ODI record this year. It started with them beating England at home in January. This was followed by a series of away triumphs — Champions Trophy (England), tri-series (West Indies) and the whitewash at Zimbabwe. MS Dhoni would return home to defeat Australia in a seven-match series. As expected they topped the ICC ODI ranking and were the most balanced and consistent team in the cricket world.
Based on this flawless record, the national selectors might not take much time to pick the team for the limited overs games in South Africa. Not really, in case India is keen to continue this winning streak. The decision-makers need to think long and hard when they sit to list the batsmen for the tour. Regardless of the fact that India have had a stable batting line-up and three of them have scored over 1000 runs this year. It would be wiser to pick horses for courses, especially when lively tracks and menacing pacers wait for them in South Africa.
The big question that the selectors, captain Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher need to address today is: Do Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh deserve to be on the flight to South Africa?
Yuvraj’s scoring sequence from the last six games is: 28, 16 not out, 12, 0, 0, 7. His last big knock was his 77 runs against Australia in a T20 game in Rajkot. Thrice in his five innings he has got out to the short ball. Raina’s record isn’t very different. Earlier this year, Dhoni promoted the left-hander to No.4 from No.6 to make his job slightly easier. Elevation up the order meant Raina had time to settle.
This gave the exceptional fielder and part-time spinner a better chance to be a reliable and regular batsman too. The plan didn’t work. Rivals continued to exploit Raina’s well-advertised short-ball problem as his scores of 23, 0, 28, 16, 17, 39 and 19 show. Like Yuvraj in the past, Raina has been a handy bowler but will he be effective on South African track? And with R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, genuine all-rounders, in the squad, do we really need these part-timers? Besides, with the new ODI rules heavily tweaked in the batsman’s favour, it is illogical to punt on an out-of-form willowman who can squeeze in a few overs and, at times, get wickets. A specialist batsman would certainly be