Monday, December 30, 2013

India scorecard...

At the beginning of the series if you were told, India will lose it 1-0, you would have taken it with both hands. After all, this Indian team on paper did not stand a chance against the World No.1. So, if India actually drew a match (which they could have won) and then lost a match (which they could have drawn) and eventually lost the series by 1-0, it is a bargain result. Some may argue that India is actually ranked No.2. But ranking and reality are different entities. Mind you, it is battling the trio of Steyn, Morkel and Philander on spicy wickets and getting out the likes of Smith, Amla, Kallis, De Villiers and Du Plessis twice in a match. After following the side’s performance in this series, the verdict 1-0 suddenly appears disappointment. Thanks to some feisty performance by the young brigade, it actually tempted Indian supporters to believe that India could spring a surprise. In that context, “India disappointed” is an acceptable opinion. No matter what the result is, this team has more fire under the belly.
I personally felt India should have saved the second test. Some of the mistakes were very glaring. Soon after Steyn walked in as night watchman in the first innings, India should have taken the new ball. Taking the second new ball after 144 overs was hyper defensive. One of my friend jokingly remarked that “Dhoni is waiting to take two new balls at each end”. The way Zaheer Khan applied himself in the second innings, should have displayed the same maturity in the first innings too. Rahane looked very good at the other end and clearly running out of partners. Zaheer walked in only to play an atrocious shot to leave Rahane stranded. Dhoni should have played his natural game when Duminy and Peterson were operating in tandem. For the confidence and maturity displayed by Rahane in the first innings, he should have been sent ahead of Rohit Sharma in the second innings. And then the way Ravindra Jadeja got out in the second innings is unpardonable sin. Can’t believe he has few triple hundreds under his belt in first class cricket. Of course, the way he got out in the first innings of the bowling of Duminy was not a good sight too. And then, Rahane was in a hurry to get his 100 missed a trick or two in the second innings. He should have had little more confidence in Shami. Guess he will gain that maturity with time. Kohli and Zaheer got rough decisions. I don’t say all these would have definitely helped India to save the test match. But paying attention to small things always carry big payoff.
If you revisit the first match, it was India’s game all the way. South Africa came from nowhere and pulled the game out of the jaws of victory. The second test was South Africa’s game all the way. India should have returned the courtesy. Well, the least there were plenty of opportunities in taking to save the match. Despite disappointing, there are lots of positives to take consolation.
Here is a quick review of the players.
Vijay (6/10)
Vijay appears to be a horse for the long run. He has all the ingredients of an opener. The primary role of the opener is to blunt the new ball and make it easy for the stroke players to follow. Players like Sehwag, Hayden gave new dimension to the opening role is different story. But then they are once in a generation cricketers. Going back to basics, Vijay did his role well. 3 out of 4 innings, he made his opening role count. He easily batted 60 – 90 balls and blunted the new ball in 3 innings. 1 out of 4 innings, he made the start count by scoring 90+ score.
Dhawan (2/10)
Dhawan was a huge disappointment. He was walking wicket all the way. I guess he was caught up in two minds between aggressive stroke play and blunting the ball. In the end, he was found wanting on both counts. Unless he makes himself into a different cricketer for different conditions, there is a very little chance he will have long career. Being a left hander (not many challengers in the circuit right now) is his biggest advantage and some strong scores at home should give him that bandwidth for the management to persist. Being a smart fellow, I’m sure he will find his way. If Dhawan fails, I guess, India would prefer a third generation cricketer like Zol rather a first generation cricketer like Gambir for a left hander in the mix of things. Also as a close in fielder, missing out a couple of sharp chances at silly mid-off was a disappointment too. Somehow Dhawan manage to bat about 80 balls in the final innings of the test earns him 2 points.  
Pujara & Kohli (8/10)
Pujara and Kohli are future of Pillars of Indian cricket without a doubt. Both seem to make an identity for themselves at No.3 and 4.
Rohit Sharma (1/10)
Sharma is another disappointment joining the ranks of Dhawan. 2 out his 4 dismissals were free bees to opponent. Cheesy and Classy stroke play alone is not sufficient. Substance is the need of the hour. Hopefully, New Zealand tour should help him make up for his mistakes. And the argument with Steyn in the second innings was absolutely not required. There is a reason why he is the World No.1 bowler. You just have to keep your mouth shut and let the bat do the talking.
Rahane (7/10)
Rahane is another find of this tour. I personally preferred Rahane ahead of Rohit Sharma in the batting order in the second innings of the second test. Very disappointed he could not complete his century. A lot has to be attributed to lack of maturity. He failed to convince Zaheer Khan to give him company in the first innings of the second test. More knocks like the last 3 innings will give confidence to tail-enders to respect Rahane and give company.
Ashwin (3/10)
Ashwin was utter failure with the ball. I prefer to blame him for India not winning the first test. If he had picked a couple of wickets here and there in the first test in each innings, I have no doubts India would have won it. He earns points for his potential to become that all-rounder India is searching for a very long time. How will he find a spot in the XI is the question? Possibly an opener. It is only a speculative thought.  
Ravindra Jadeja (7/10)
Without a doubt he should be the choice of first spinner for India. He gives better support to the fast bowlers compared to Ashwin. He has immaculate control of line and length with amazing consistency. Also delivers with wickets than meagerly bowling his quota of overs. With Jadeja, we somehow tend to associate the all-rounder tag and then he turns out to be a mug with the bat. But he is easily the best slow bowler. Kudos to Dhoni!!! Somehow he managed to sell Jadeja to us.
Ishant Sharma (6/10)
Somehow, people have a very negative opinion about Ishanth Sharma. Even I wasn’t fond of him until during this series. In here, he surely delivered. He extracted bounce, regularly troubled the batsman, provided critical breakthrough. Yeah, it is disappointment that he could not sweep away wickets like Steyn or Philander. I doubt if he could be that match winning bowler. But definitely he can be that workhorse for India like a Peter Siddle for Australia.
Shami Ahmed (6/10)
Shami is another find of this tour. He provided important breakthroughs, bowling at good pace disconcerting batsman here and there with reverse swing. He did a good support job. It would have been a turning point for him and India if he had run thru South Africa with reverse swing. Again, these are early days. Sure he will turn into a huge asset in the future. He is the most likely candidate to lead India’s bowling battery after Zaheer Khan.
Zaheer Khan (5/10)
For his comeback, Zaheer did an amazing job. Still the Zaheer’s zing was found missing.
Dhoni (5/10)
Dhoni as a batsman is without a doubt failure. He could not capitalize when Robin Peterson & Duminy were operating in the first innings of the second test. Had he played to his strengths, India would have done better than 375. He was found defensive in captaincy most periods except when he opted to bat after winning the toss in both tests. Again, Dhoni has been defensive in tests for a very long time. To me, India should have gone for the win in the final test of the Windies tour in 2011. Giving the benefit of doubt to Dhoni, I guess he will do more positive plays once he understands his boys better and start believing in them that they will step up and deliver.
India scores 6/10 despite losing the series. I’m happy with it. There is definitely light at the end of the tunnel.
Bottom line: Thank you Kallis. You are the greatest all-rounder of our times. It was a privilege to follow your career. Two greats signed off in 2013. That leaves Shiv the lone survivor. His career may come to an end in 2014.
Cricket Lover

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