BGT 2022-23: Should BCCI release Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Mohammed Siraj & Kuldeep Yadav for Ranji fixtures ahead of Australia Tests?
As we gradually move closer to the World Test Championship (WTC) 2021-23 final, a clash between the two cricketing giants - India and Australia - looks inevitable. Both teams are in scintillating form and have thoroughly dominated their opponents in their preceding series. On one hand, India clinched a 2-0 Test series victory against Bangladesh after Shreyas Iyer and Ravichandran Ashwin batted with maturity on a rank turner in Chattogram to see their side home. On the other hand, Australia brutally bamboozled the Proteas at home in a very audacious manner as their pace battery featuring Scott Boland, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins clinically ran through the defenses of amateur South African batters.
Australia are currently the number-one ranked team in the WTC 2021-23 points table with a phenomenal win percentage of 75.56 per cent and have registered a total of 10 wins. India are trailing behind the kangaroos and are positioned at the second spot on the points table. The men in blue have a win percentage of 58.93 pc with a total of 8 wins. Although both teams are yet to fully secure their spots in the WTC 2021-23 final, the World Test Championship predictor indicated a 59.6 pc probability of India locking horns with Australia in the WTC final. To be precise, if India win the Border Gavaskar Trophy 2022-23 against Australia by a margin of 3-1 or better, they will secure a place in the June final regardless of results in other series in the ongoing cycle.
India need players who are match-ready & Ranji Trophy 2022-23 provides a perfect chance to help them polish their skills
Team India would want their big guns to be at the top of their game and fire at crunch moments. Many three-format players are struggling with form and fitness and haven’t been at their very best of late. And when it comes to batting, both Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have struggled to display their prowess in the longer format of the game. They are great batting legends and big match-winners for Team India but it was the batting department that faltered which ultimately led to India’s demise in the WTC 2019-21 final against the Blackcaps.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should be mindful of the past and should explore ways to address their batting woes ahead of the WTC final. One way of doing that is by releasing some of the out-of-form players from the ongoing New Zealand series to play the seventh round fixtures of Ranji Trophy 2022-23 starting from January 24, and the subsequent quarter final which begins on January 31, if their team qualifies for the next round.
This will help the players to get an essence of the longer format of the game. Moreover, it is also advisable for BCCI to monitor the workload of in-form players in order to prevent burnouts and injuries. They must be rested so that they can rejuvenate and later hit the ground running in big games where it matters the most. This will also make way for more fresh talent to come through and allow BCCI to explore backup options and alternatives whenever their top guns are unavailable.
Below are some of the players we think should be released from the ongoing ODI & the forthcoming T20I series against New Zealand to partake in Ranji games to regain their form, fitness and temperament, and perform at their level best in the upcoming Border Gavaskar Trophy 2022-23 against Australia.
Although Rohit Sharma is the only batter in India’s upper order with an average of 45+ in WTC 2021-23, it is fair to say that he hasn’t been at his sparkling best in the red-ball format of late. The India skipper has only managed to average just 30 with a top score of 46 in his only 2 Tests played in 2022.
But it will be too hasty to draw conclusions regarding his capabilities as Rohit has averaged 45+ in WTC 2021-23, the only India batter above this mark in this cycle. Rohit was also India's leading run-scorer in the 2021 Test series against England where he also made a match-winning century (127) at the Kennington Oval.
It must be said, however, that the skipper has got work to do to keep up with the required fitness levels and perform consistently in the longer format. Rohit was also ruled out of the recently concluded Bangladesh Test series after sustaining an injury in the preceding ODI series against the same side, and it is fair to say that he will need to revisit domestic cricket to get back to form and return to his glory days.
Rohit’s side Mumbai takes the field against Maharashtra in a do-or-die clash at Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on January 24.
Former India skipper Virat Kohli has been in woeful form in the longest format of the game. Virat did end a three-year drought of centuries, by scoring his first T20 international century against Afghanistan and then scored two back-to-back centuries against Sri Lanka in the recently concluded ODI series against the neighbours.
So, why is the longest format where the 100+ Test veteran needs to put in some work to regain his lost touch. It is because of his lacklustre performance in WTC 2021-23 where he has managed only 572 runs in 12 Tests at a below par average of 27.23, with only three fifties. Two of those fifties came in the drawn Test series against England in 2021-22.
Since the beginning of 2022, his form has dipped further with just a solitary fifty in 6 Tests played in that year. In fact, he has scored just 265 runs in 11 innings with a highest score of 79 against South Africa.
Virat is arguably India’s best batter across formats and his lack of form in Test cricket can seriously hurt India’s chances of emerging triumphant in the WTC final. Hence, it is advisable for Kohli to withdraw from the ongoing New Zealand series and shift his focus to Delhi’s last Ranji game against Hyderabad, so that he can get a feel of playing the long innings ahead of the all-important Border Gavaskar Trophy next month.
Mohammed Siraj has been in the form of his life. He has spearheaded the Indian pace bowling attack in white-ball cricket with pace and aggression and his figures in limited-overs cricket speak for themselves.
Time and again, he has delivered for India by striking at crucial points of the game even in Test cricket. His record in the longest format is impressive and he has registered his best bowling figures of 5-73 against Australia in the legendary Gabba Test down under back in 2021.
While he is an exciting fast-bowling prospect for the men in blue, some experts suggest he should be groomed further to sustain in the longer formats as well. Siraj has a long way to go in Test cricket and needs to develop his bowling repertoire as a well-seasoned Test bowler.
In WTC 2021-23, Siraj has taken a total of 30 wickets in 10 Tests at an average of 31.53 and a strike rate of 52.6. Siraj’s most notable contribution was in the Lord’s Test against England in August 2021, when he returned match figures of 8-126 and played an important role in India’s win.
The overall returns definitely need a boost and he can do so by getting himself involved in Hyderabad’s game against Delhi, which will help him gain more maturity and resilience as a premium fast bowler ahead of Border Gavaskar Trophy 2022-23.
Kuldeep Yadav has had a very good outing in the recently concluded home ODI series against Sri Lanka and also continues to impress in the ongoing series against New Zealand as well. But more importantly, he performed exceptionally well against Bangladesh in India’s first Test against them in the 2-Test series where he returned match figures of 8-113 and emerged as the player of the match. Kuldeep was surprisingly dropped from India’s line-up in the next Test at Chattogram which raised more questions than answers on India’s approach.
Kuldeep just got one Test in WTC 2021-23 but it is true that batters have often struggled to pick him up and score runs off him when he gets his rhythm right. Besides, his killer wrong ‘un can bamboozle any top-class batter. He can be a very useful asset for the men in blue, especially on day 4 and 5 when the ball is turning square. With a little bit of assistance from the surface, Yadav can be a very tricky customer to deal with. He is a trump card for BCCI and they will need to take special care of him as he has what it takes to deliver on turning tracks. If a viable replacement in the form of Axar Patel or Ravindra Jadeja becomes available for him in the ongoing New Zealand series, then he should be released to play Uttar Pradesh’s last Ranji game this season that will allow him to get into the groove to deliver long match-winning spells for his side.
India play Australia in the first Test of Border Gavaskar Trophy 2022-23 at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium in Nagpur on February 9.