Karun sidelined as Kohli-Shastri continue to baffle

Skipper Virat Kohli (left) and head coach Ravi Shastri. Reuters

Ever since they reunited last year, skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri have been making some dubious selection choices and hiding facts from the diehard fans. On Friday, the opening day of the fifth and final Test against England, they added a couple more to their 'Vault of Fault'.

First, they handed a Test debut to Hanuma Vihari while completely ignoring the deeds of Karun Nair and then, finally confirmed that ace off-spinner R Ashwin was indeed playing the fourth Test at Southampton with an injury which they kept denying despite repeated questioning over the last few days.

With no disrespect to Vihari, just what the team management was thinking in handing him the Test cap ahead of Nair is utterly baffling. Nair, India’s only Test triple centurion apart from Virender Sehwag, has been part of the line-up since the start of the Test series but has been reduced to just carrying drinks and an odd session at the nets.

The selectors initially picked Nair in the side ahead of many others as a specialist middle-order-batsman. They looked at his record in 6 Test matches and a first-class average of 51.09 from 61 games and felt he was the best backup choice. Suddenly, they summoned Vihari out of nowhere, saying his recent good form merited a call-up.

But what wrong has Nair done for him to be ignored again by Kohli and Shastri? He was chosen in the first place because they and the selectors thought he deserved it. However, to ignore him without even trying him is absolutely shocking. If they felt he didn’t fit into their scheme of things, it would have been better on their part to send him back home along with Murali Vijay and Kuldeep Yadav after the third Test. But to retain him, not play him, just use him for drinks on match days and delivering throw-downs during training sessions is completely disrespectful. Imagine what it would do to the confidence of the player.

This manner of treating players as disposables by Kohli and Shastri is having a debilitating effect on the confidence of key players. Ajinkya Rahane has not been the same batsman since he was dropped for the first two Tests during the tour of South Africa at the start of this year. Vice-captain and considered the current generation’s Mr Reliable, he looks more like Mr Shaken now. Same with Cheteshwar Pujara who gets treated very unfairly for his ‘slow’ pace of batting. Even bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav have been victims of poor selection.

Everyone who watched Ashwin bowl at Southampton knew he wasn’t 100 percent fit. On the eve of the match and even two days ahead of this game, Kohli and Shastri denied he was injured. They claimed he was perfectly fine. But on Friday after the toss, Kohli said, “Ash has aggravated his niggle in the last game.”

With no high authority in the BCCI to question them, it looks like both Kohli and Shastri are taking everything for granted. They’ve erred repeatedly with selection choices, failed to justify such moves and the results have been pathetic in South Africa and England.

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Karun sidelined as Kohli-Shastri continue to baffle

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