WTC final: Excluding Siraj was a blunder for team India

Abhijit Sen Gupta
Abhijit Sen Gupta

In Indian sports, one often sees the wrong decisions being made. Talent is not given its due, or a totally illogical selection is made and thereby a golden opportunity is squandered. Not including Mohammed Siraj in the playing eleven for the WTC final was one such blunder. He is the sort of bowler who could have broken the stand between Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor.

Within the space of the last one month or so, both V V S Laxman and Mohammed Azharuddin had told that Siraj is a bowler who can do wonders. During his career, Laxman had faced some of the best fast bowlers in the world from South Africa and Australia. If he said that Siraj is the bowler who can engineer breakthroughs for India, then his words must be right.

Let us recall exactly what Laxman had said: “The ability to maintain his speed and bounce and movement over a long period is what makes Siraj such a dangerous bowler. There is no time for the batsmen to relax. Siraj just keeps coming back again and again and he keeps hammering away at the batsmen.”

Laxman had gone on to say that he would like Virat Kohli to use Siraj for long spells while giving the others short sharp bursts. But for some strange reason, the think tank which made the selection before the WTC final dropped Siraj at the last moment. And the end result was disastrous.

Not only Laxman, former Indian skipper Mohamed Azharuddin had also said that Siraj was the ideal bowler for English conditions. “Siraj can definitely perform well in England because the ball will swing and reverse swing. He will be an ideal bowler under English conditions. The way he has bowled so far, shows that he has the pace and control to cause problems for the best of New Zealand’s batsmen,” these were the exact words that Azharuddin told a few days before the final match began.

Other experts too had spoken in favour of Siraj including former off spinner Harbhajan Singh. But despite the overwhelming expert opinion, Siraj was left out of the playing eleven. What reasons prompted this decision are not known. But the verdict that was made was totally incorrect. This was well illustrated in New Zealand’s second innings when a breakthrough was badly needed.

Had that third wicket partnership been broken, anything could have happened. We have often seen that after a stand is broken, a landslide follows. A collapse of four or five wickets in rapid succession would have swung the course of the match decisively in favour of India.

But the way it turned out, the trio of pacers, namely Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, were handled with a patient but firm hand by the two batsmen who adopted the right approach under the circumstances. None of the seamers could capture a single wicket.

After the famed Indian batsmen failed to put up a commanding total in the second innings, the whole burden fell on the bowlers to skittle out New Zealand. But the seamers had suddenly become placid and innocuous. Although Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami had done well in the first innings; in the second innings there was no fire and fury in their bowling.

Siraj who is young and fit, could have made a big difference. This is a lesson that the Indian decision makers must remember well. Otherwise we will continue to see more such defeats in the future.

Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.