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Sunday, October 07, 2007

India back to Ground Zero

All the euphoria that surrounded the Indian team, after their victorious return from the T20 World Cup, has died down - thanks to the two convincing defeats against the Aussies. So far, the cricketing public seem to have taken it in the right spirit - only because the opponents are the deadly Aussies. They are wishing that the Indians can pull back once or twice, in the remaining matches.

The Australian team have shown why they have been on the top for the last decade or more. Their all-round skills have not diminished even with the induction of new blood and the retirements of the Greats. The newcomers (like Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin) have ensured that the absent players were not missed at all. The other teams in international cricket must be still wondering at the enigma called Australia.

The Indians have done a decent job till the 30-over mark, while bowling. But, once the ball is changed (thanks to a new change in ODIs), the batsmen have taken a liking to the hard ball and tonked it around. Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin are the ones who have been consistently taking runs off the Indian attack (each missing out on one occasion) while Matthew Hayden has made runs at the top of the order. Ricky Ponting and Brad Hodge have not got off to big scores but it is only a matter of time.

The Indian bowlers have not fired jointly - that is probably the only way this run-machine can be stopped. None of the bowlers can have an off-day - a very unlikely proposition - but that is what an Aussie loss, isnt it? Harbhajan came back in the last ODI and will have a new partner (Murali Karthik) for the remaining ODI's. The 3 left-handed bowlers gives the Indian pace attack a single-dimensioned look, which means that Sreesanth has to be given chances even when being costly. Sree has shown that he is learning new tricks (especially at the death) by bowling off and leg breaks to vary the ball speed. The think-tank has taken a good decision to rest RP Singh for few matches - he has been going non-stop right from the English test series.

The others who have been playing continuously are the captain and vice-captain. They must be given chances where they can rest their tired bodies, especially MS Dhoni - for it is a long schedule ahead for the Indian team. The Seniors must be feeling out of place, after being shown how a young outfit can make wonders on the cricketing field. Dilip Vengsarkar has added to their batting miseries by mentioning that they should perform or perish - how short-term is his memory, for the seniors fared quite well during the English ODIs.

The youngsters like Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir, have not been able to show the spark that they did in the T20 World Cup. But, the fielding has definitely shown a major improvement (even with the presence of the slower ones like Ramesh Powar, Sourav Ganguly).

And of course, the current crop of youngsters have shown that they are not behind on the verbal duels also. For once, the Aussies have not been able to cope up with the fact that there is another team which is giving back in equal measure what they excel in. The team management would do well to persist with the younger crop so that they get a continued run as well as some exposure to high-class cricket in the longer version of the ODIs. Even without them, there is a very good possibility of the Aussies winning the series - hence, there is nothing much to lose for the Indians if they let go the youngsters against the champs.

The Indians came back after being down against the South Africans in England to win the series; equaled the series (with 3 straight wins) before going down to the English; won continuous make-or-break matches in the T20 World Cup. Can they do it once again? If they do achieve it, this is certainly the dawn of a new era in Indian cricket. We have the luxury to dream, dont we?
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