The media can play a huge role in deciding how a certain team approaches or performs a tournament. They can influence major selection decisions and act as a voice for the public. If the masses are not satisfied with the performance of a certain player, they will use various forms of media to vent their frustration. Some massive issues created by the media during this World Cup are:-
- Ambati Rayudu’s omission and retirement
Rayudu was in good form at #4 during the West Indies and New Zealand series. He lost his form during the Australia series and subsequently lost his World Cup place to Vijay Shankar, who was initially Hardik Pandya’s replacement but some good innings with the bat elevated him above Rayudu. When the selectors decided to omit Rayudu from the 14 man squad for the World Cup, they explained that Shankar was a 3-dimensional player and can be used as the sixth bowler. The explanation made perfect sense, but in a fit of anger, Rayudu made fun of the ‘3-d’ explanation in a tweet. When Vijay Shankar was ruled out due to a toe injury, Rayudu was snubbed once again. Mayank Agarwal was called up instead. This move also made sense, as opener KL Rahul was not a 100% fit and because Agarwal is versatile and can open or come in at the middle order.
In the aftermath of all this, Ambati Rayudu announced his retirement from all forms of cricket and India lost the services of a talented player who averaged 47 in ODIs. It can be argued that Rayudu has a history of making rash decisions, be it playing in the ICL or retiring entirely from domestic cricket once he had cemented his #4 slot.
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- MS Dhoni’s batting
Dhoni, at 37 years of age, is not the swashbuckling and fearless batsman he once was. His major role is that of preserving his wicket and thereby ensuring that India have enough wickets in hand for the last few overs. It is evident that Dhoni has not completely lost the ability of finishing brutally. At the IPL, he has the guarantee that the batsmen coming in after him can still finish the innings. However for India, he does not have this liberty. In many cases, Dhoni is the last recognised batsman and rather than losing his wicket by taking a risk, he stays till the end.
The media have constantly claimed that ‘Dhoni is too old’, ‘Dhoni eats up balls’ and most recently, ‘Dhoni’s strike-rate is low’.
The management must understand that Dhoni is not the player he was and use his skills to the maximum. He is an adept preserver of his wicket and is very quick between the wickets. All his positives clearly match the requirements for a #4 in ODIs and despite this, Dhoni is asked to bat at #6 and sometimes #7. He rarely has enough balls to play himself in. He usually faces 30-40 balls per innings and strikes at 87.7.
India have a readymade replacement in Rishabh Pant but we must make use of what we have got before time runs out. Dhoni’s current skill-set and batting strengths call out for him to bat preferably at #4. This position gives him enough time to settle in and carry his bat till the death overs, where proclaimed finishers like Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant can finish the innings.
We have seen many recent incidents where teams have broken down purely due to media pressure. Look no further than England in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. India must ensure that during the World Cup, the players are focussed solely on their performances and in turn, this will bring the best out of them.
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Also published on Medium.