Monday, March 25, 2013

Dhoni's team scales a peak

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A 4-0 blanking was definitely not a predictable script. Other than Harbhajan who also predicted England being blanked, no one seriously thought India would hand such a drubbing to Australia. Although, some may sneer at wins achieved on friendly, doctored surfaces and some (like me) may not derive a great deal of pleasure from such wins, a 4-0 sweep is a huge achievement for any Test side.

Having grown up watching the West Indies take England apart in what were known as "black washes", I had yearned for similar ruthlessness from Indian teams. Even when conditions were favorable for India to deliver such wins, our captains demurred. The 3-0 verdicts against England and Zimbabwe in the early nineties were the closest India came to being ruthless. Kambli being the destroyer in chief in those series.

Our fabled four didn't get to bask in such a series win although they did deliver rare overseas series victories on the back of strong batting performances. The wins in Pakistan and England being the most notable with the drawn series in Australia and South Africa being very engaging.

A new India team has arrived on the scene and the retirements of Dravid and Laxman have hardly caused a hiccup. If anything, it appears that they overstayed slightly in an Indian sort of way. Tendulkar's presence in the team has been rendered irrelevant by mainly Pujara and by that smart batsman Virat Kohli. Pujara's mountain of runs and consistent performances, including 4th innings deliverances have outshone even the genius that is Tendulkar. Pujara and Kohli's consistency gives India the perfect cover to groom a replacement for the master.

Obviously, the hope is that this team takes baby steps overseas and does not get destroyed like Azharuddin's side got drubbed in England in 1996 or Tendulkar's team got blanked in Australia in 1999. Pujara and Kohli have sufficient pedigree and more miles in them than Dravid and Ganguly did on those two tours. Hopefully, the results are better. While a series win in South Africa this winter may be far-fetched, a fight would be well respected. Taking test matches into the fifth day will be a great beginning for a side lacking the quality that Zaheer Khan brought to overseas tests as well as the spine that Dravid provided the batting.

The jury is still probably out on the opening combination. Dhawan's magnificent and confident debut augurs well, but more needs to be seen from him before anointing him successor to the mad genius that Sehwag has been. Vijay has done very well to cement his place. Although at times he has not looked convincing outside the off stump, he has gutted it out. He has heart and that is a critical ingredient to succeed overseas.

Jadeja will likely play as the second spinner even overseas with Ashwin being the main spinner, which means Jadeja has to clock more runs. His 45 in the Delhi match was a promising start hopefully to more consistent batting. Umesh Yadav, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma are likely to be first choice seamers overseas.

All of this means that Dhoni well and truly has steered India through a difficult transition with minimal fuss. All the batsmen barring Tendulkar who delivered the 4-0 away series drubbing are now out of the side. A new look team has emerged and is demonstrating a ruthless streak never before associated with Indian teams. It's a matter of time before a Tiwary or a Sharma or Chand or Rahane or other take the master's place in the side. Kohli will likely take the number 4 position in the lineup. And like all the transition that has happened till now, that too may become a non-event. Maybe that's the greatest contribution that Tendulkar will make in that he didn't leave the team in disarray with his departure.

We are fortunate to have Dhoni who has now led India to World Cup victories and a "brown wash". A series win in Australia and South Africa are the holes in India's resume. Will those happen on Dhoni's watch too?


Homer said...

We have 8 months between now and the SA tour, enough time for our bowlers to get fit and possible get a couple of Ranji games under their belt before they leave for SA.

All things being equal, I expect us to atleast match our performance from 2010. And it is not as far fetched as it seems, given SL beat SA in Durban, against a bowling line up that read Steyn, Morkel, De Lange, Kallis and Tahir.


Vidooshak said...

Homer -
Agree wholeheartedly. And some of the younger guys delivered for SL along with Sanga..So it's quite possible that India will be more than ready.