Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Blue Print...

The 4 T20’s and 8 ODI’s scheduled before the commencement of Australia Test series definitely served well for Indian Cricket. I know there is still a game left, but the performances from the earlier matches are already sufficient to start working on a blue print.

Let’s go over in detail.

All of batting, bowling and captaincy (fielding included) failed India that resulted in England sealing the series 2-1.

I personally wanted the Selectors and Team Management to use the 12 games into good effect to address the issues/short comings from the England series and before. To be precise, identifying fresh pair of opening batsmen, discovering new bowling talents and groom an able candidate to replace Dhoni as a Captain (in the future). Now, after 12 games, I would like to review the Selectors/ Team Management’s performance in this aspect (as how well they capitalized this opportunity to find solutions to their problems).

Young Rahane was given a decent run in place of Sehwag as an opening batsman. Rohit Sharma was tried as an opening batsman in the penultimate ODI against England. Dinda, Awana, B Kumar and Shami Ahmed were tried in the area of fast bowling. The wickets in the main centers produced more bounce, pace and swing for the bowlers.

Did Not
Though Ashwin was found wanting in the Tests as a lead spinner, India did not attempt to try a new spinner in all these 12 games. Rather, India persist playing Ashwin in almost all matches. To some extent this ploy was understandable. It is my guess that the Selectors/Management wanted to give Ashwin a good run in his favorite format to strike form before the Australia series. Selectors did not attempt to try a new skipper (even in the shortest formats), thus sending a strong message to the seniors, youngsters and public that “Dhoni is the ONE”.

The Big Review
Now that we know what Selectors/Management, DID and DIDNOT, let us review their work. Good things first, Selectors can proudly raise their collars, for introducing B Kumar and Shami Ahmed. Surely the duo appears to be quiet a good prospect in the fast bowling department. As I had mentioned before that I’m little circumspect over B Kumar as I feel his success is largely due to the 2 new balls (coupled with surface) used in One Day Cricket. Also his quota of overs was mostly completed when the ball is new. In Test arena, he will have to operate with older ball most time. So, it remains to be seen as how well he fairs there. At the same time, I’m very certain that he would do a better job than the current form of Zaheer Khan. Zaheer Khan of today neither picks wickets with the old ball or new ball. From that perspective, B Kumar definitely gets thumbs up over Zaheer Khan. Also, for the next 3 years, India is likely to play more matches abroad than home. Also the new ODI rules with 2 new balls are there to stay (the least till next World Cup). So, B Kumar more or less will be a permanent fixture for India in multiple formats. Probably, even Praveen Kumar could get another lease of life as a back up to B Kumar. Also an ideal situation for Irfan Pathan to stage a comeback once his injuries woes get over. And there are more youngsters in the lineup waiting for a call too.

Though the results against Pakistan and England did not matter, the win over England was due to the fact that India settled to the combination of B Kumar, Shami Ahmed, I Sharma, Ashwin and Jadeja. This established two points. It helps India to win more matches when played with 5 bowlers (despite the batting department not clicking well.) The same combination of bowlers allows each bowler to settle to their roles very well. It is time India takes a leaf out of their own book and tries the same in Tests too.

With respect to batting, it is disappointing that Rahane could not produce runs as many as we would have wanted/expected. However, he did not do any bad for himself or in comparison to Gambir so far. Rahane in all 16 matches scored 404 runs at the average of 25.25, while Gambir in his first 16 matches scored 409 runs at the average of 25.56. Even the average of both these batsmen in the current two series should be more or less the same. From what we have seen with Rahane, he deserves another run for more evaluation. When compared to the opportunities given to Rohit Sharma and Jadeja (including their limited bench time), Rahane definitely deserve a longer run.

On the flip side, I’m extremely disappointed with the selectors for not trying a new skipper in the shortest format (to say the least). I would have been happy had India explored a new spinner in one day cricket. Finally, the management did not earn any point for not debuting Pujara (up until 4th one dayer). This is another instance where the Team Management ignored a player’s form while selecting the playing XI.

As much I root for Rahane’s extended run, as much I root for Pujara’s inclusion in the ODI setup, as much I root for Gambir’s exclusion (I heavily blame the Team Management here for not doing all of the above), I appreciate the Team Management’s effort for trying Rohit Sharma as an opener in the penultimate ODI against England. I did not say this because he made runs. The logic is – India is looking for new opener in Tests. And it is very evident that Gambir will be replaced in the first test against Australia. Logically, it would have made more sense if Pujara had opened the innings for his inclusion in ODI set up, but it is important India also use this opportunity to find the next opening batsman to pair Sehwag in Test Cricket (until Sehwag himself is replaced or repositioned). I don’t necessarily say that the Team Management approached Rohit Sharma’s inclusion in the 4th ODI in this perspective. At the same time I don’t wish to ignore the possibility too.

After watching Rohit's innings today to entirety, he batted out (both) the new balls quiet comfortably on a good surface that assisted bowlers. He was behind the ball well ahead of time. There was only once he was beaten. Also once he tried to play a shot too early that almost cost his wicket (thanks to Pieterson for dropping at Mid-Off). But that was a shot in effort to accelerate the run rate. Otherwise he definitely looked tight and composed. May be it is India’s curse that they could never discover a proper opening pair in Test Cricket. May be India is a country that is destined to get the job done by make shift opener only. Let’s see.

Though the negatives outweigh the positives, I still wish to be generous and give 60/100 to the conservative crop of Selectors and Team Management for putting some effort to progress.

The Blue Print in writing

We already have Ojha and Yadav ready to bloat the resource pool of bowlers in Test Cricket. For a place in side, the best the make the cut. From my perspective Yadav, B Kumar, Shami Ahmed and Ojha are automatic selections. One among Ashwin and Jadeja will fill the fifth spot as a batting all-rounder (I know they are not there yet to be called as batting all-rounders or even deserved to be called as a bowling all-rounder. But somewhere we have to start creating one). I will give Ashwin the first opportunity considering his batting skills are better and more suited than Jadeja for Test Cricket and his off spin bowling could be a variety to the attack. Ishant Sharma will get a place in the side only if Yadav is down. After all Sharma’s wicket column never helps his case for a place in the XI (But in the recent ODI’s he has improved and picked some wickets too). However, we all know Indian Cricket is not played this way (5 bowlers). The spot of Shami Ahmed will go to a batsman or a spinner, until Jadeja/Ashwin turns into a genuine all-rounder.

My starting XI for the first test against Australia would be
Sehwag, Rahane/Rohit, Pujara, Tendulkar, Kohli, Dhoni, Ashwin, B Kumar, Ojha, Yadav, Shami/Chawla/Jadeja. (Chawla/Jadeja's selection based on surface)

I guess, by the end of Australia series/beginning of South Africa series, Tendulkar would have retired and Sehwag would have taken his spot as middle order batsman. While someone like Unmukt Chand or Jeevanjot Singh should be surfacing for the role of opening batsman.

Bottom Line: We will keep working on the Blue Print.

Cricket Lover

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...