The Indian batting collapsed on Day 5 of the Mumbai Test match for a pathetic score of 100! A lot has been said since this defeat, “Bring back Ganguly (only Kolkata based Telegraph reported this btw), Sack Chappell etc. etc”.
The performance was certainly disappointing. But I think there is reason for optimism. There is no doubting the fact that this team management is very keen on experimenting. This means that there are lessons to be learnt at every stage. The learning from these experiments has resulted in swift changes in the team and I think that it is likely to continue. I would give credit to Dravid and Chappell for experimenting rather than call for their sacking!
Putting England to bat was an experiment that failed. The thinking was that India would bowl England out cheaply and pile up a big score and not have to bat again. This experiment failed. If it had succeeded all the the team management would have been praised to the skies by all and sundry. Notice that Dravid accepted that this was a mistake. A rare admission by an Indian captain.
Dropping VVS was a mistake. Yuvraj is still very much an ODI player and is far from capable of replacing VVS in Tests. Again, another experiment that failed. The lesson here is to bring back VVS into the 11. I suspect this will happen on the WI tour.
I think this is a positive move. As Dravid pointed out India needs five bowlers in order to win a test. Unfortunately, the five are not in their best form. Bhajji and Pathan are struggling while the other three are showing good results. The lesson here is to play five “in form” bowlers. Sreesanth and Munaf are two new finds who are likely to remain for quite sometime. Agarakar, Nehra, Balaji, and Zaheer have been swapped out for good. Bhajji is feeling the heat with Powar knocking on the door wit superb domestic performances. Pathan will be shown the door if his bowling deteriorates. None of this would be happening but for the recent experiments.
The Dropped Catches
Again, Dravid rightly pointed out that because of changes in the team, India didn’t have the right fielders in specialist positions. Yuvraj in slips and other close catching positions for instance. I am not sure there is an easy fix for this. But at least the captain appears to have recognized this shortcoming.
When I read Dravid’s comments I sense there is some “learning” from these mistakes. The responses are sensible and thoughtful. Besides Dravid is clearly not afraid to admit his errors and take responsibility.
This defeat is not new considering historic data. The Indian team has almost always failed when chasing a total on the last day (recent Pak series, Pak in India in Bangalore are just two recent examples). But what is positive here is that India now has a learning captain (as seen in his comments) and a thinking coach neither of whom are afraid to experiment.
Sachin (I suspect!) was deliberately rested from the ODIs with an eye towards the World Cup. I think Powar will play in first ODI ahead of Bhajji. Venu and Raina will keep Kaif and Yuvraj honest. Gambhir must be motivated to excel while Viru is under pressure to get out of his slump. RP and VRV are waiting to replace Sreesanth and Munaf or Pathan.
When is the last time India had so much prime talent waiting in the wings?