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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eng-Ind series - Time for Post-mortem

The series is over. India have been white-washed by the English team convincingly, 4-0 being the verdict. There was no doubt who was the stronger team and the No.1 ranking at the end of the series was apt for the winners.

The jury is out. Ex-players are out with their comments and suggestions on how to improve Indian cricket but one thing is common among all the commentators - they are like the Indian industrialists who do not want to support Anna Hazare in the Anti-Corruption Drive. For fear of being an outcast in the eyes of BCCI and thereby losing their potential income, they do not blame IPL as one of the reasons for the Indian loss.

No longer the No.1

Sanjay Manjrekar in Cricinfo states that India needs a few urgent repairs. Manjrekar talks about pace bowlers first and then spinners.

Stating that India needs to look beyond Zaheer Khan, Sanjay lists the likely bowlers who can lead India's new-ball attack - Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma - while being disappointed with two other bowlers - SreesanthMunaf Patel. From the period Javagal Srinath retired from the international scene, India has played quite a few number of pacemen.
Let us look at the ones who are still in the hunt:

  • Irfan Pathan - played 29 test matches for India. Has a hat-trick to his name but lost his prodigious swing somewhere. Everyone criticized him for losing his pace which never was his strength. Injury further sidelined him, making it difficult for getting a look-in to the pace attack. Definitely should be in the plans for the future of Indian cricket. A fully-fit and in-form Irfan would have been a handful for the English attack with his swing and batting skills. 
  • RP Singh - Eric Simons mentioned that he was selected over Munaf Patel because of his ability to swing. Neither swing was on offer nor pace was visible during his spell in the final test match. After having lost pace (more than 10kmph compared to the earlier English series in 2007), RP did not look like making any impact on the batsmen in any way. 
  • Balaji and Ashish Nehra played test matches for India last in 2005. Injuries crippled them to cut short their promising careers. Though Nehra made a comeback to ODIs and has performed creditably, he has not been looked (by the selectors) as a possible candidate for tests (even though he was keen on coming back to the test arena). Balaji made a comeback two seasons ago in the IPL bowling at slower pace.
  • VRV Singh, Jaidev Unadkat were given chances on the tour to South Africa but they never capitalized on the opportunities. While VRV has fallen away, Wasim Akram has spoken very highly of Unadkat and one might see him make a comeback (provided he can add muscle to his slight frame). Abhimanyu Mithun on the Sri Lankan tour (in the absence of the leading bowlers), however, performed better than expected. But, he has not been seen once again in Indian colors. Will the selectors revert back to him for the Australian tour?
Similarly, in the spin bowling department, Manjrekar feels that Ashwin should be given a chance in the home series against West Indies. Who else have played for India in the same time-frame as above?
  • Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha are the ones who have been given the maximum number of chances after Kumble and in the absence of Harbhajan Singh. But, as Mishra showed in the recent series, on wickets that do not support spin, these bowlers do not make any impact on the bowlers. Pragyan Ojha should continue his previous assignment that was agreed with Surrey and gain experience on the county circuit. This will keep him in good stead for the future.
  • Piyush Chawla and Romesh Powar are the other spinners who have played a couple of test matches for India. Though Chawla made a surprise comeback to the 2011 World Cup and has age on his side, he is not thought to be in the same frame as the other spinners. If he can be a bit faster in the air, Chawla can still help India in the long run. Powar continues to ply his wares in the Ranji tournament with average success.
  • Murali Karthik is the other bowler who has performed well whenever given a chance (which is mostly in a crisis situation). But, the selectors seem to consider him as over-the-hill even though he plays with success on the county circuit.
Sanjay finishes the article by suggesting that VVS Laxman does not have much time to play for India. Just a few test matches ago, the entire sub-continent was singing praises for VVS but look at the reactions now. There are obviously no other players who are good enough to take his role, yet. Who are the other middle-order batsmen whom the selectors have given a chance so far?
  • Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina have been given enough chances to prove themselves. Both have showed that they cannot translate their potential shown in the shorter format to the longer arena. How longer will they continue to get chances their way? Should the selectors not look elsewhere now? Probably yes.
  • Cheteshwara Pujara, Virat Kohli and Badrinath have been given a few tests to show their prowess. Virat and Badri have shown that they have technical weaknesses against the short ball (Badrinath would have felt unlucky to have started his test career against the searing pace of Steyn). Pujara did well against Australia at home but in the series against Proteans, did not make a big contribution.  
  • Rohit Sharma is the other name suggested by Anil Kumble in his comments after the debacle but these players should earn their spot in the playing eleven rather than being selected purely for youth sake.
In the opening department, Sehwag and Gambhir have been playing well but as this series once again showed, injuries and illnesses need to be planned in a proactive manner. 
  • Aakash Chopra and Sanjay Bangar had performed the role of opener very creditably on the tours to Australia and England. Though they still play domestic cricket, they are not on the short-list of selectors any more. Aakash would have been the ideal opener to replace Sehwag on the recent tour, even though it was a short-term option.
  • Murali Vijay, Abhinav Mukund hail from the state of Tamil Nadu. They have done well in few of the opportunities given to them so far but it is injustice to them that they have not been given the exposure to challenging pitches overseas on 'A' tours. Will the BCCI make the necessary changes to groom these players?
Ravi Shastri, the IPL veteran, remarked in his column - It's time for Indian cricket to identify players who are specifically suited to the different formats of the game. A way has to be found to encourage those cricketers who want to give Test cricket priority. There ought to be superior remuneration or compensation. How do you suggest this will happen, Ravi? Especially when the BCCI is filling its coffers with IPL as well as CLT20 tournaments, how can young cricketers get encouraged by the longer version? Is BCCI planning to start a new tournament on similar lines? Or are they going to increase the prices of central contract? What is your detailed proposal to achieve this, Mr. Shastri?

Pataudi, who gave away the trophy (named after his father) to England at Oval, predicted the next action that one can expect from the BCCI very correctly - The BCCI is not going to show a great deal of vision. Cricket will continue [in India] the way it is, but I sincerely hope that some sense does come in.
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