Is desperation leading to dilemma?

The Indian selectors have picked the 30 hopeful men for the 2011 World Cup and as it always happens, the selection has attracted some mixed reactions.

Has the desperation to get back into the international fold induced Piyush Chawla to beef up his batting at the expense of his leg-spinners? © AFP

While some people are demanding the reason for omitting the likes of Rahul Dravid, Irfan Pathan and Robin Uthappa, there are inclusions that have left some bemused.

One such name is that of the once-seemed-forgotten leg-spinner from Uttar Pradesh, Piyush Chawla. After playing his last international match in 2008 – an Asia Cup game against Pakistan – the 22-year-old leggie remained in obscurity for over two years as the selectors tried and tested a string of new tweakers for both formats of the game.

And now, suddenly, out of nowhere, Chawla has been recalled and made a part of the five-member spin prospects for the flagship event; Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra and R Ashwin being the others.

Surely the squad will be trimmed to 15 and any criticism of the selection at present, holds little value. But the turn of events that followed does give us a sneak peak into the selectors’ minds.

The preference of Chawla ahead of his fellow leg-spinner Mishra and left-armer Ojha for the limited-overs leg to the South Africa tour clearly shows where the inclination of Messers Krish Srikkanth and co. lies. His superior batting abilities as compared to the other two could be the only thing that snapped the deal for him.

In fact, Chawla’s numbers in the ongoing Ranji Trophy tell a story of their own. He has 305 runs at 33.88 and 14 wickets at 44.07 apiece in six matches so far. Those don’t look like numbers of a leg-spinner who can bat a bit. And while Chawla insists taking wickets with a spinning ball remains his main task, he also admits having an eye on the vacant allrounder’s spot.

But the truth is there are too many eyes on that position already. Yusuf Pathan is the current favourite after his batting pyrotechnics against New Zealand and consistently miserly bowling. Ashwin is more than capable with the bat, besides being a very intelligent off-spinner with many variations in his kitty.

Ravindra Jadeja has managed to stay on the selectors’ radar despite continuous failures. Does Chawla stand any realistic chance of out-scoring them all, after being away from Team India for two years? Your guess is as good as mine.

The selectors want to test him out at the highest level and hence have decided to send him to South Africa. It, however, remains to be seen if he can find a place in the playing eleven ahead of Harbhajan Singh or Ashwin and get enough opportunities to prove himself in the pacer-friendly conditions of the Rainbow nation.

Moreover, with MS Dhoni’s well-known strategy of using the part-timers like Yuvraj, Raina, Rohit and Virat – all of who bowl spin – the only way for Chawla to make a cut is at the expense of Jadeja.

This desperation of returning in the international fold is visible in Chawla’s rising batting and bowling averages. Is he going the way of Irfan Pathan – a talented bowler who could contribute with the bat in the lower order turned a toothless bowler and an inconsistent batsman? Let’s hope not.

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