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Baffling not to send experienced Dhoni before Pandya, says Gavaskar

Icon questions team management, says public is ‘entitled to answers’

By TT Bureau in Calcutta
  • Published 12.07.19, 2:28 AM
  • Updated 12.07.19, 2:26 PM
  • 2 mins read
Sunil Gavaskar thinks that with four wickets down for 24 runs on the board, Dhoni and not Hardik Pandya, should have joined Rishabh Pant at the crease. Telegraph file picture

Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman had slammed India’s tactics after the defeat to New Zealand in the first semi-final of this World Cup on Wednesday. On Thursday, Sunil Gavaskar joined the trio and tore apart the current Indian team management with stinging criticism.

Like many with the cricketing know-how have already said, Gavaskar too believes that pushing down Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the most experienced man in the Virat Kohli’s side, to No.7 in the batting line-up when the team was battling a crisis was a tactical blunder.

Gavaskar thinks that with four wickets down for 24 runs on the board, Dhoni and not Hardik Pandya, should have joined Rishabh Pant at the crease.

“At that stage (24 for four), you did not need two players playing in the same mould. Both (Pant and Pandya) are attacking players. It could have been an MS Dhoni coming in at this stage and talking to Rishabh every second delivery,” Gavaskar told Star Sports, before Thursday’s second semi-final match between England and Australia in Birmingham.

“He would have assessed from the non-striker’s end what exactly Pant was feeling… Is he getting a little impatient?

“You sent two people whose natural game is to go bang-bang, and at that stage, with the ball doing all kinds of things and the pressure being there, four wickets gone… you wanted somebody to hang in there. That was baffling,” the icon added.

‘Baffling’ was also the word that Gavaskar chose to explain other decisions taken by the Indian team management, headed by Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri, in the last couple of years.

“Let’s face it, there have been a lot of baffling decisions over the last couple of years. Ambati Rayudu for example… He should have been brought here. Can you explain to me why and how you bring in a Mayank Agarwal?

“He hasn’t played a single ODI as yet. He just came before the Sri Lanka game, the last league game, (so) you want to him to make his debut in a semi-final or a final in case a slot was open? Why not bring in a Rayudu, who is your standby? Very disappointing to see what happened,” he said.

The former India captain was also critical of India’s everlasting confusion over the No.4 slot in the batting line-up.

“Last year you said we found our No. 4... So what happened to that No. 4? He is now left out of the original squad. Then when you have the opportunity, when Vijay Shankar gets unfortunately injured, you bring somebody else in.

“This is something nobody can understand. The Indian public is entitled to answers — what is the thinking behind this (selection).”

Putting the onus entirely on the team management, Gavaskar said: “It is not the selection committee’s decision. It is the team management which has been asking these things.

“We are not saying you are wrong but at the moment, what we are seeing didn’t work out, we need to know.”

Not just Rayudu, Gavaskar thinks even Ajinkya Rahane could have been brought in to deal with the middle-order problems.

“You have tried Ajinkya Rahane. He was your middle-order batsman for such a long time. Suddenly you are only going to consider him as an opening batsman because in the middle overs he is not a finisher, he does not take runs, whatever, whatever excuses we heard.

“In those conditions in Manchester, what did you need? Somebody with technique…

“Somebody who could have been around to see that period off and then eventually leave the field open for a Hardik Pandya or even a MS Dhoni.”