Euro 2020 Special

Fitness or Skill: What Should Indian T20I Team Selection Focus on?

Should the criteria for selection be more focused on fitness or skill? That has been the topic of debate in the cricketing circles ever since Varun Chakravarthy and Rahul Tewatia were ruled out of the Indian T20I team after failing to pass the fitness test set out by the current team management.

Virat Kohli has been quite vocal about improving the fitness standards of this Indian team ever since he took charge of the team and he sets a pretty high benchmark for the newcomers to follow if they were to fulfil their dreams of playing for the national team.

If we look at the curious case of Varun Chakravarthy then you’d find that the poor chap has done almost nothing wrong and even after being named twice in the squad has failed to make his way in the Indian T20I team. He was initially picked after his personal best Indian T20 League season for India’s tour of Australia but it turned out that his shoulder wasn’t a hundred per cent fit throughout the tournament and he couldn’t field in the deep position, hence ruling him out from the Indian squad. His name yet again popped up for the five-match T20I series against England at home but the spin bowler failed to pass the fitness test this time around as well.

The team management needs every non-fast bowler to complete 2 kilometres in 8 minutes and 30 seconds but Chakravarthy fell short of the desired standard. The team went on to play the series without the mystery spinner and eventually won it 3-2. Throughout the series, they kept chopping and changing their spin bowler and with so many left-handed batsmen in the England middle order, it was begging for someone of Chakravarthy’s skill to bamboozle the English batsmen.  

T20 cricket is a game of skill and many believe that should be the first priority when it comes to selection in the Indian T20I team but Virat Kohli thinks differently. He wants to focus on having one of the fittest teams in the world and for that, these fitness standards have been set out well in advance. While others believe in finding horses for courses in the format and can accommodate a few players who aren’t at the top of the game when it comes to their fitness but can do enough to fulfil their roles with no issue. A bowler is able to bowl four overs without pulling up with an injury and at the same time, a batsman is able to muscle the ball and finish his innings without any issues. They may be slow in the outfield and wouldn’t increase the overall fielding standards of the team but their ability with either the bat or ball is so good that it compensates for their fielding effort.

The current Indian team may pride themselves on the high fitness standards they set but on the field we’ve seen some sitters being dropped post the lockdown. So if the fielding standards aren’t dipping tremendously then it could easily have a player or two who aren’t the fittest and you could hide them in the field in safer positions, i.e third man or fine leg.

Players shouldn’t just be reprimanded for the lack of fitness in their first-ever tour like we saw with Chakravarthy or Rahul Tewatia, they should be kept with the team and should be asked to improve on it as they progress through their careers. By staying with the team and observing the standards the captain sets in training it could add as a motivational factor for these players and we could see them working hard to get fit. By letting go of these players, we are probably going to lose a player whose skill might be needed to win the crunch games in a high octane tournament like the World Cup.

Read: Is There a Role for a Sheet-Anchor Batsman in T20 Cricket?




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