In short, I think Sachin should pass on Test cricket until the next World Cup and focus entirely on ODIs. This will give VVS, Kaif, Raina, Venugopal Rao, or Badani a good shot at Test cricket.
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Hats off the Graeme Smith the “outspoken, bragging, get under the opposition’s skin” captain of SA. Gotta hand it to him. He showed some real spunk. He lead from the front with a fine knock when it most mattered and ensured SA’s greatest ever ODI victory. It just shows that Aus can’t expect the next World Cup to be easy. SA, England, Pak and India are all capable of beating Australia. Will be interesting to see if Warne is brought back into the Aus ODI team.
I think its time cricketing countries made a conscious attempt to balance the matches so bowlers have an equal role to play in the ODIs as the batsmen. Why not prepare tracks on which batting is very difficult? Turning tracks, bouncy wickets etc. Why does it always have to be run fest? Why not a low scoring ODI where runs are extremely difficult to score? This might add some challenges to team compositions. Specialist batsmen might actually have more of a role to play as will specialist bowlers. If the current trend continues in a few years time ODIs will be phased out in favor of 20-20s.
One can’t help feeling for Piyush Chawla, he was hopelessly under bowled on his debut Test. With Dravid’s, “I won’t swap Anil [Kumble] for anyone in any conditions.” mindset, Chawla can reset his Test hopes for now. His best bet is to break into the ODI team. I was a little surprised that he was sent in after Bhajji despite being a batsman (he top scored in the India U-19 final against Pak).
It was a little disappointing to see England succumb without a fight. I thought India will lose 4-5 wickets before reaching the target. England will be under severe pressure going into the last Test on pitch that has known to aide spinners. But I suspect India will bring back VVS in place of Chawla and go in with four bowlers.
The pressure to retain ones place in the Indian team is evident and a healthy trend. Viru played an uncharacteristic knock to show that he is not completely out of form and can still justify his presence! The pressure is now on Sachin to deliver on his home ground after a string of Test failures.
The third change, VVS, is clearly a “daring” move. Hats off to the team management for this bold step. VVS is easily a top notch Indian test player, but the truth is that he has not performed exceptionally for quite a while now and two youngsters Yuvraj and Kaif have been fighting for a middle order spot for quite sometime. With Ganguly out of the way, the message to VVS must have been loud and clear, “perform or you might find yourself on the chopping block”. If VVS had scored runs in the Nagpur Test one can say with a fair degree of confidence that he might not have been dropped. If Yuvraj scores big in the Mohali Test and with Kaif looking very good, VVS might find himself out of the 15 for the third Test. And this could mean the beginning of the end for his Test career unlss of course this change results in India losing the Mohali Test.
On the bowling front, I suspect India will opt for a three seamer attack and give Bhajji another chance to prove that he is still a force. Alternately, they might experiment with Piyush Chawla in place of Bhajji given the Piyush can bat as well. (I think Bhajji will be given a rest and Piyush a break).
In any case, I think its very likely that Munaf will make the playing 11. A five man bowling attack seems certain unlike the first Test where India went in overly optimistic about its spinners abilities. Full marks to the Indian team management for making these bold moves.
There was no need to panic and go after the bowling in desperation but it would certainly have helped to play with the purpose of winning right from the outset. Until tea time India never looked like it was interested in going after the target. After tea it was just a plain and complete sham. It was a joke to attack with an asking rate of 11 an over. It was simply too late in the game.
One excuse I have heard was that it was a slow, low fifth day wicket. What if this were an ODI on the same wicket? India would not chase the target?
Firstly, I think India was simply scared of repeating the Karachi fiasco. Better to be safe than sorry. Fair enough. On the other hand, all the Indian cricket fans have to accept that India is simply not a good enough a Test team to take on a challenge like this. Dravid lost an opportunity to prove that he is different from conventional India captains. With two solid defensive players in him and Kaif he should have had a fair degree of confidence that India can most likely save the Test. While he was at the crease Dravid should have made sure that the score was ticking along at a reasonable pace to set the stage for a gradual acceleration followed by a final charge. Alternately, he should have sent in Sachin at number 3 with clear instructions to play his normal free stroking game. Dravid could thus have saved himself for a crisis if needed. He did neither but instead stuck it out at the crease and increased the asking to a point beyond which there was no hope of winning.
After England dominated the first four days this was a perfect chance to steal a win on the final day and India simply blew it. Winning this Test required some professional planning and seasoned execution. With this draw, the Indian team proved that it is not yet upto the mark on either front, the use of laptops and other latest technology not withstanding. But I think that none of India’s Test teams from the past would have come even close to what this team achieved on the last day. So if you are an ardent Indian cricket fan, savor the draw, this team is the best India has ever had.