Virat Kohli might have wistfully looked at Misbah Ul-Haq receiving the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test mace for the No.1 ranking as India prepares for the first of 13 Tests at home this season.
With a little luck and organisational abilities of the West Indies board and Trinidad & Tobago cricket authorities in getting the Queens Park Oval fit to play, Kohli and India would have had a fair chance of winning the series 3-0 and with it, the mace.
Pakistan thoroughly deserved to raise the mace, Misbah’s side did what the Indians could not in England in 2014. After drawing the high-scoring first Test and winning the second, India surrendered the initiative to lose the next three Tests badly, two by an innings and the other by 266 runs.
A look at the way Pakistan fought back to draw the four-Test series 2-2 will convince even the most diehard Indian fan that the neighbours are the rightful owners of the mace for 2015-16. Pakistan won the first Test, then lost the next two, and recovered to take the fourth and last Test by 10 wickets to become the No.1 Test nation while India cursed the rain and the shoddy ground management in Port of Spain.
Any detached cricket admirer will be happy for Misbah, who, in his 40s, may not get another chance to lead Pakistan to No.1 in the world rankings, even if Kohli deserved all the sympathies. Pakistan did not treat their elder statesmen like Misbah and Younis Khan as some kind of age-barred players.
Pakistanis have not seen international cricket at home for seven years and just as well Misbah received the mace from the ICC Chief Executive David Richardson at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, the venue where the terrorists ended Pakistan’s hopes of hosting cricket to outside world by attacking the Sri Lankan Test team in 2009.
India still has a cause to celebrate. They will be playing their 500th Test match Green Park, Kanpur, the first of a three-Test series against New Zealand, starting Tursday. They will be back at No.1 if they can sweep the 13 Tests and they also will be perched at the top for long.
While Kohli was at pains to explain why India’s batsmen are finding it difficult to, of all things, cope with spin overseas when they actually should be wary of the pace, swing and seam bowlers, the Indian board flexed its muscles over the implementation of the guidelnies framed by Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha at the instance of the Supreme Court for better governance of the apex body as well as its affiliated state units.
Kohli’s explanation about the Indians finding spin uncomfortable is a bit funny, that they were preparing more to face the pace bowing. Still, it does not clarify how an innocuous off-spinner Moeen Ali returned with 19 wickets, as many as Stuart Broad and Bhuvaneshwar Kuimar got in the series or for that matter, they got perplexed by Rengana Herath in Sri Lanka and off-spinner Roston Chase, who took five wickerts and then stonewalled Indian with a century to deny them victory in the second Test in the West Indies.
The board is clearly sending out a message to the Supreme Court that it knows how to run the sport and it requirements. Lodha Committee picked up the decades-old suggestion for a three-member selection committee of Test stars to eliminate the system of a selector each from the five zones. The board’s argument is justifiably right, now the country is so vast that three selectors just can’t manage it. The best way is to make sure the selectors from one zone must spend more time in watching players in any other zone.
The intriguing aspect of the new committee is the personnel chosen from various zones. After just one season as selector from South Zone, Mannava Sri Kanth Prasad — to give the former India wicketkeeper his full name — is now the new chairman of the selection committee.
Prasad has the right credentials to be a chief selector after the way he managed the Andhra Cricket Association cricket affairs efficiently as its CEO before becoming selector.
Prasad will have only one selector who was with him last year, Gagan Khoda. Of the other three, Sarandeep Singh played three Tests as off-spinner while East’s Devang Gandhi played four. West’s Jatin Pranjpe played four one-dayers and Central’s Khoda two. On paper the panel looks the weakest in recent years.
The new committee has an enormous responsibility of picking for a dozen Tests and will it have the courage to tell someone like Mahendra Singh Dhoni to decide on his future in limited overs cricket?
The new selectors can still prove to be a surprise package if they are in touch with domestic and international cricket.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])