Now that India have won their match against Bangladesh in the ICC 2019 Cricket World Cup and have qualified for the semi-finals, there are going to be very few complaints from Indian fans. But in the celebration of victory, a major tactical blunder made by the Indian team management has been overlooked.
The decision to drop Kuldeep Yadav and bring in Bhuvneshwar Kumar was questioned and criticised by Sourav Ganguly and defended by Sanjay Manjrekar. The argument presented by captain Virat Kohli and seconded by Manjrekar was the small distance of boundary on one side of the wicket. It was surmised that if spin bowlers bowl in tandem, one of them would be very vulnerable to getting hit to that boundary easily.
However, as Ganguly argued, the success of Shakib Al-Hasan in the match and the fact that he was hardly hit towards the short boundary proves that the distance of the boundaries shouldn't always dictate whether you pick a spinner or not. The fact is that Kuldeep has shown himself to be a high-quality tweaker who has bowled some of the best spells from the Indian side in this tournament. Short boundaries shouldn't deter India from playing him.
On top of that, the constant use of slower balls from pacers showed the unique nature of the wicket and how much the ball was gripping. A spinner, especially the quality of Yadav, may well have made things very difficult. The tactic of playing three seamers didn't quite work as Mohammad Shami proved to be expensive and unreliable in death overs. However, after picking up five wickets in the last game, it was nearly impossible to drop him and the man brought to replace Kuldeep, Bhuvneshwar proved to be very competent. But the Chinaman bowler may have proved equally effective.
This is not the first time that a wrong selection has been made by the duo of Shastri and Kohli. Keeping Ajinkya Rahane out of the first two Tests in South Africa, bringing Kuldeep into the team on a non-responsive pitch during the series in England are the prime examples of earlier selection blunders. With one match to go before the semi-final for India, the Indian team cannot afford any more risk-taking with the selection of the team.
It's very likely that Kuldeep would be back in the team for the last match of the league round against Sri Lanka and Shami would sit out. It's unlucky for the latter but with so many good bowlers around, there is always going to be one person who is unlucky.