Sunil Gavaskar went on a rant after India’s semi final loss against New Zealand, demanding reasons for not sending Dhoni in at five or six. Gavaskar, alongside other former cricketers, said they were ‘baffled’ by the decision to send in Dhoni with India 71 for five, and nearly out of the game.
After posting a modest total of 239, New Zealand’s best chances of a win lied in triggering a top order collapse. The uncertainty of the Indian middle order has been their Achilles’ heel for ages now. So, when Matt Henry and Trent Boult reduced India to 5 for three, and later 24 for four, India were crying out for some experience in the middle. Instead, the team decided to send in Rishabh Pant at no.4, and Hardik Pandya at no.6 - two explosive, inexperienced batsman - in the semi final of a World Cup. Although the young men resurrected the chase with a sturdy 47-run stand, in the end, it proved too heavy a burden for those young shoulders.
"At that stage (24 for 4) 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.
Neither Pant, nor Pandya’s talent or skill was the concern for the batting legend. Gavaskar was, instead, arguing that the experience of Dhoni at the other end would’ve boosted the performance of the young guns.
"He would have assessed from the non-striker's end what exactly Rishabh Pant is feeling: is he getting a little impatient? You have 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," Gavaskar said.
Looking at the overall picture, Gavaskar, Laxman and several other former cricketers raised questions over some puzzling decisions the Indian team has taken in the last couple of weeks. The inclusion of Vijay Shankar ahead of specialist batsmen like Ambati Rayudu or Ajinkya Rahane and calling up uncapped ODI player Mayank Agarwal when Shankar was injured were on the forefront of the criticism. Gavaskar demanded answers, firmly.
“The Indian public is entitled to answers - what is the thinking behind this (selections). It is not the selection committee's decision. It is the team management which has been asked these things. We are not saying you are wrong but at the moment what we are seeing didn't work out, so we need to know," Gavaskar added.
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