As the euphoria over a new year begins to dwindle into discipline for the competing teams, the questions arise once more: why tinker with a winning team.
On the face of it, it would seem foolish that teams would mess with tier playing line up. Why would a winning team break up the composition, leaving room for doubts and chinks to enter into the equation? What captain would not see the benefit in having the same team, show up on the field, again and again, doing the basic core business as it was laid down as part of the strategy in their previous winnings games?
Those questions will be asked, as teams and not just India and Australia, make changes to their squads and even playing eleven. It is a phenomenon the world over, though some changes seem far too frequent for the team to draw scrutiny, as India has. There is something to be said for tinkering with a lineup, a change for the sake of change and a change because it is the right thing to do.
It would be hard to argue in the case of an injury that a change is not beneficial. Obviously, when a player is unfit, the team is shortchanged when the cricketer takes to the field, only to aggravate the injury and break down, which depending on at what time he happens to break down and leave the team one man short, could be a potentially devastating prospect.
That said, some teams have chosen to play players at half tilt, players like Ben Stokes and Hardik Pandya showing up in line ups where the captain thinks that an all-rounder with one skill is better than having him benched. These are dicey calls to take, and the captain must decide if this team is strong enough to withstand the pressure for the compromised skill sets of the said player.
Some changes are automatic. It is hard to imagine Australia benching a fully fit Warner, no matter how well his substitute has fared. If anything, at the most, the substitute will have to accommodate somewhere down the line up as the established player returns to the playing eleven. Whether the player is in form or not becomes irrelevant. It is the aura he exudes the fear and respect he commands in the opposition that comes into play.
However, with the game-changing as fast as it is doing over the past decade with more and more formats coming into play and picking players on their form for a particular format becoming increasingly difficult for selectors to discern, sometimes captains rely on the horses for course theory – putting the conditions and the opposition on the drawing board – before picking the team.
This has also come into scrutiny in recent times with some Indian cricketers being labelled for this skills or lack of it against some teams while has not set well with cricket pundits and have drawn ire as late as the first Test in Australia.
Ultimately it boils down, or it must, to the captain in command on the field, who thinks are his best resources that he can either manage well or whose talent makes it easy for him to focus on areas where he must build strength. Given the pandemic year that was 2020, it is quite possible that not only will captains be put to the sword on the matter as cricket will try to clear its backlog but also, might face competition either from those aspiring for their seat or from the policy of split captaincy which might come into place, as boards contemplate fielding two teams, simultaneously! Just ask Australia.