Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Winning in Transition

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India's transition has one foot stubbornly in the late 80s but ignoring that, the series win against New Zealand though anticipated, is a welcome relief after the string of losses in England and Australia.

The Indian side does not look settled at all but no side can be after the string of recent losses and the retirements of 2 of the game's greats. What is of concern though is that it is not the transitory elements but the established ones that are looking vulnerable. Zaheer Khan averaged 60 for his 3 wickets and Sachin Tendulkar 21 for his 63 runs. Yet conventional wisdom among experts is to 'preserve them' for South Africa. An idea that is unlikely to flatter India's youngsters while also being debatable given the two might be past their prime.

Both Gautam Gambhir and Virendra Sehwag are 'under observation'. Patience with both is running thin and given that both have spoken their minds against Mahendra Singh Dhoni's tactics neither has an option to just be passengers in the team. In normal circumstances, a prolonged period of less than optimal productivity will leave their fate in the hands of the captain and the selectors. Neither performed in this series and set bad examples with the choice of their shots. With the IPL and private money (and thus influence) nothing is normal about cricket any more. Neither the captain nor the selectors may have any say in how long is prolonged. I for one doubt whether the two will produce anything meaningful when India travels abroad. Bad habits have crept into their batting a direct influence of T20 cricket and whether they have the discipline to curb the T20 instincts is something we will know only in time

India’s transitory elements Virat Kohli, Pragyan Ojha, Cheteshwar Pujara and R Ashwin were the core team that engineered the series win and that is the biggest positive from the series.

Even Rahul Dravid has acclaimed Virat Kholi as the best Indian batsman today. It is as much a statement on Sachin as it is a compliment to Virat. How much in future monetary compensation this statement may cost him remains to be seen but cynical remarks aside, seeing Sachin Tendulkar struggle against the weakest team in Test cricket was painful to watch. It is entirely his choice that he is okay to reduce himself to a passenger on the team.

Another problem is Suresh Raina but he is a problem produced by the system or ‘process’ as is fashionable these days with cricket. Whatever ODI opportunities he has been given he has come through. Even in the most high pressure situations; most notably his batting in the World Cup quarter finals against Australia and semi-finals against Pakistan. It is hard to ignore him. His captains and coaches all seem to love his work ethics. His inclusion in the Test team can be justified because he meets all ‘pre-requisites’. Yet I have never harbored any great hopes from him. He just doesn’t look like a proper batsman to me. I hope he has something else in him that will help him sustain his Test career.

In sum, I believe it is reasonable to say that India’s youngsters delivered a series win under Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s captaincy in spite of the seniors.


Uday said...

Completely agree. Sehwag's recklessness always gets lost in the debate about how his aggressive style is a take it or leave it situation. He used to be much tighter with his technique, got onto the front foot more, and used to pick the balls to attack. The distinction often gets lost because when he is playing good test cricket, he scores quickly anyway - he just does it with less risk and over a longer period of time.

Anonymous said...

I too carry similar thoughts, but slightly in a different tone. See if you can check mine here

Vidooshak said...

Unfortunately, the ensuing T20 World Cup will obfuscate selectorial judgment for test matches. A bright 70 by Sehwag and consistency from Gambhir will be used as qualification for no change in approach.

Golandaaz said...

His role with a middle order trying to find its feet should be different. He does not have the luxury of Dravid, SRT and VVS following him. He will have to change

Anon, Nice Blog

Vidoo, yes T20 WC is everywhere and even a half decent performance by India is likely to sweep all our Test shortcommings under the carpet

Uday said...

Either that, or move him to the middle order where he can face an older ball and more tired bowlers. Personally though, I think he is capable of playing against the new ball in bowler friendly conditions, and still scoring quickly. He just needs to follow the basics - tighten technique, pay respect to the bowlers, et al., and forget all the bullshit he learned playing IPL.

@Anon - politics aside, Im in favor of promoting Chand to the test team. He's clearly talented, and better than Raina at the very least.

Homer said...

Two points

1) A new selectoral panel takes over in September, so extrapolating the decisions made by this panel to the next one is a bit of a stretch

2) In the lead up to the Indian home season, India plays, after the T20 World Cup - The Challengers, Irani, CL T20, Duleep and 2 rounds of Ranji before the first test. Form can be gained, or lost, in the period between the end of the T20 WC and the start of the Test series.

And, for a team that is playing its first Test series after February 2012, with most, if not all of the team in early season form, its not a shabby result at all.


Golandaaz said...

Hi Homer nice to see you comment

1. Fair point but I am assuming the next set of selectors is as comical as this one

2. Certainly a good result no doubt

I agree Sehwag is a classical Test batsman. His comeback 150 in Adelaide 2008 was a testament to this. An innings of immense patience and discipline and attack when in control. Moving him to Sachin's spot, asking Rahane to open and getting Unmukt for Raina would be worth testing out. For that though we all have to hope that Sachin wakes up one day and does not feel like playing cricket :-)