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Monday, March 25, 2013

Is 4-0 for real?

The Indian team won the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 4-0 today at Delhi, thanks to a combination of decent spin bowling (enhanced by the doctored pitches) as well as mediocre batting from the inexperienced bunch of Oz batsmen.

Throughout the series, the Australian players reaffirmed everyone that this experience will help them in latter series that they will play in their career. But, what happened to this one? With the retirement of Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting, it was left to their Captain Clarke to shore things up along with seniors like Shane Watson and David Warner (one thought his IPL experience would come handy in this series!). Clarke started well in the first innings of the series but fell to the puzzle called Ravindra Jadeja subsequently. Shane Watson without his bowling, was only half-effective. The spinners did reasonably well with their limited skills but the pacers came to the forefront with their lion-hearted performances. Surely this experience will help them in the next series (if they are still in the playing squad).

On the other hand, the Indian team managed to find some new stars who shone on the horizon. Hopes are high throughout the country that this will form the core of the next generation Indian team. MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher seem to have identified some of the key players who have shown the right mix of technique and temperament that can be honed further. Let us look at some of them:
  • Murali Vijay - the Chennai player topped the series averages with his big hundreds at a time when the team was missing Sehwag's belligerence and Gambhir's solidity. After his first test flop-show, Vijay played like a man possessed to launch India's responses to Australian scores.
  • Cheteshwar Pujara - more than the double century, Pujara's last innings of the series was probably the reflection of his growth in stature. Dubbed the next Dravid, Pujara did a "Rahul" by playing the role of an opener in the last test (to accommodate Rahane in the middle order). If he can work on his hook-shot, he will be ready for harder overseas tests
  • Virat Kohli - though there is no doubt about this lad's talent as well as his leadership skills, he needs to develop the consistency that marks the sign of a great batsman. Kohli had few good knocks but could not convert them into big ones like what Pujara (or even Vijay) did.
  • Ravindra Jadeja - Jadeja started this season as the scorer of two triple centuries in Ranji cricket. Though he could not contribute much with the bat (in fact, he looked out of place against raw pace even on Indian pitches), his bowling was a revelation and elevated him to the role of a second-spinner in the squad. This gives the team a good balance on home tests but overseas, not so sure (unless he improves his game drastically). A good fielder as well, Dhoni will be willing to wait for Jadeja to reduce the gap.
  • Ravichandran Ashwin - Ashwin went off with his personal coach to work on his bowling before the series started. He was obviously not happy that his batting record was better than his bowling during the series against England. With the necessary changes to his bowling, Ashwin was quite a revelation this series (even on pitches that helped the spinners). Not showing off with his variations (unless required) and planning his dismissals thoroughly (especially bowling the left-armers around their legs), Ashwin was the Man of the Series clearly.
  • Shikhar Dhawan - Dhawan got only one innings to show his skills in this series and what a show that was. Waiting for his time at the crease, Dhawan managed to get it when Sehwag was dropped. His shot-selection and daringness was a good package for all to see. Again, he has made the right noise to go to South Africa - how he improves further remains to be seen.
  • Bhuvaneshwar Kumar - The young lad made further inroads to his blooming career with the breakthroughs consistently. What was impressive was his batting skills against the visiting bowlers, especially the faster ones. Clearly, he was not out of place and showed that he can be relied upon, to provide the much-needed support to the top half.
  • Sandeep Patil and team - Last but not the least, by identifying the right people for the tasks and then taking the difficult decisions of leaving out the non-performing seniors, Sandeep Patil seems to have given the message to all that performance is the key to staying in the national team, not potential. A good start that was justified by the results. 
Yes, the series got a bit too one-sided after the second test match but let us take it one by one. This Indian team is learning and have won the series against a similar inexperienced Australian team. Just like the Indians lost Down Under, it was their turn to repeat the dose to the Oz in India. Which team will build faster to start delivering outside their territory remains to be seen. There are however glimpses of talent on both sides that can be nurtured to make them future greats - the captains therefore have a great task on hand and there is no doubt that Dhoni and Clarke are the right men to lead their teams in the near future.
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