Team India probably squandered a rare opportunity of going one up in a Test series being played abroad. Going into the first Test match, chances of India winning the match looked bleak, but the team surprised everyone with an all-rounded effort.
Batsmen, bowlers and fielders all put in exceptional performance in the match. The questions now arise is, if the efforts by the team was so exceptional and well rounded, why did not India win the match? Where did India go wrong? What can India do to win the next Test and thus go on to win the series in South Africa?
Success is built on two components. First being the efforts which we put in and second being the strategy we adopt to achieve it. Both these components have to be there in equal measures for success to follow. Mantra of achieving success in sports is no different. Efforts that team India had put to win the Test match was evident but team went wrong on the strategy part . Had the strategy for achieving success been a little different the results would have been India’s favour. Anyway, the past has to be put behind and team has look forward to the next Test.
As I pointed out, strategy was where Indian team went wrong. Here are four strategies that Indian team can adopt to win the next test.
- Drop Ashwin, Include a Pacer: Ashwin might have taken 19 matches to pick 104 wickets but majority of those wickets have come when he has bowled in Indian conditions. In the four matches that Ashwin has played abroad he has returned with only 9 wickets at an average of 74.77. Although sample size is too small, it is clear that Ashwin is more effective in conditions favourable to spin. In Johannesburg too, Ashwin’s bowling was looking blunt as pitch was not offering much assistance to spinners. A pacer, probably Bhuvneshwar Kumar would have given more teeth to the Indian attack.
- Drop Rahane, Promote Ashwin: One aspect of Ashwin’s cricket that has impressed everyone is his batting. He already has 2 centuries and 3 fifties against his name. He has batted in all the 8 innings in 4 Test matches that he has played abroad and returned with figures of 181 runs at an average of 30.16. Not bad at all by any means. What this means India could make a bold move of playing with 5 bowlers (4 pacers and 1 spinner) by dropping Rahane and Dhoni and Ashwin batting one position higher than they usually do.
- Drop Vijay, Promote Rahane: Murali Vijay might have done the task of seeing of the new ball in the first Test, but he is certainly not scoring runs. In the two innings combined he scored only 45 runs in 136 balls. I am certainly not questioning his strike rate, but along with seeing of the new ball, scoring runs is also equally important for an opening batsmen. Scoring quick runs makes the opposition go on back foot and this what made Sehwag special. Also, Vijay’s stats in overseas condition aren’t that impressive. He averages a poor 14.50 in the 10 innings that he has batted for India outside the sub-continent conditions. In such situation Rahane could be asked to open and the void can be filled by a pacer.
- Drop Ashwin, Include Ojha/Jadeja: Ashwin’s struggle in overseas condition have already been highlighted. Going by India’s age old preference of playing 4 bowler’s, either Ojha or Jadeja could be picked has the one spinner. Both of them haven’t bowled in overseas conditions so there are no stats to back them. But still it would be interesting to see them bowl in such conditions. We might just end up with panacea to the problem of Ashwin struggling in foreign conditions.
India did surprise South Africa with their efforts in the first Test match. Time has come that India surprise South Africa again, this time by the strategy they adopt. Going by Dhoni’s captaincy South Africa would not see any of the four situations coming. That might just catch them off-guard, which will help India to win.