A Test series at home in winter does make you feel good, knowing fully well that the conditions will be tailormade for the hosts. And with the Board of Control for Cricket in India selectors going back to the tried and tested players, it should come as no surprise if they rely on old ways of winning.
The way the Indians were bounced out in two successive away Test series by England and Australia, everyone had lost faith in MS Dhoni’s team.
But this being a home series and the Englishmen already whining about everything under the sun, one can again expect things to go India’s way.
At a time when people still debate the exit of seniors like Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, the team needs to look at consolidation. The problem with the Indian batting starts right at the top and the focus will be on the openers, who have had a bad run in all formats of the game.
- Sehwag eager to deliver
- Testing times for Gautam Gambhir
- Pujara ready for England bouncers
- Rahane upbeat going into the England series
Not so long back, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir looked good in every format, but the lean patch has continued for long. Now that the two gentlemen have got in some practice at home in the Ranji season opener, with Sehwag cracking a ton against Uttar Pradesh, how the two fare will be watched with interest.
While everyone understands Sehwag is an opener who can destroy the rival attack on his day but has always been unpredictable, it is Gambhir’s lack of runs and consistency which is worrying.
After the highs of the Indian Premier League success, the Kolkata Knight Riders skipper desperately needs to dig in his heels and provide a sound start at the top.
To be sure, this time around, the entire Indian batting will come under the scanner. Sachin Tendulkar has also not been in good form, and his century in the Ranji opener against Railways doesn’t merit too much reading into.
However, these are home tracks and, with the first Test starting in Ahmedabad next week, you can surely expect flat ones.
The talking point in India’s batting has been Virat Kohli, who has grown from strength to strength.
The Indian team now looks up to him as a pillar of strength, since he has proven himself so well.
But as regards the man who has made the most news, Yuvraj Singh being picked by the new selection committee ahead of Suresh Raina means he is getting weightage for his recent performances. For a man who battled cancer and then made a comeback, there is a huge emotional tag whenever people discuss his selection. Yet, Yuvraj doesn’t seem to have the full confidence of his captain, and it will be interesting to see if he is utilised in the middle order or Ajinkya Rahane gets the nod.
Had it been a case of the Sandeep Patil-headed committee including both Yuvraj and Raina in the squad, Dhoni could have made his choice.
But the situation is a bit different and we’ll have to wait and see how much faith Dhoni places in Yuvraj, who came good with the ball too in the warm-up game against the Englishmen.
There has been criticism regarding the recall of Harbhajan Singh since R Ashwin is the man in form.
However, I am convinced that if the selectors have brought back Harbhajan, that’s only to give out the message – expect turn.
There is every reason to believe that if Dhoni goes in with three spinners, the variety which Pragyan Ojha will lend with his left-arm spin can bamboozle the English batting.
Where there is an element of suspense is in the fitness of pace spearhead Zaheer Khan.
The star medium-pacer has been battling injuries regularly and unless he is 100 per cent fit, there is no point playing him.
In case Dhoni does decide to go in with two seamers and two spinners, you cannot afford a situation in which Zaheer breaks down. So where does that leave Ishant Sharma and exciting talent Umesh Yadav? Ishant has been around for a while now and the advantage Umesh has is his speed and ability to move the ball. Even in pitch conditions which will be essentially flat, Umesh’s pace and rediscovery of swing should settle things in his favour. He now has to grab the chance to emerge as India’s pace spearhead, since Zaheer is certainly playing in the last phase of his career.
Quite often, there is a debate about conditions abroad and at home. It is well known that when India play on fast wickets, the batsmen struggle.
Then again, I see nothing wrong in playing on wickets which will suit the home bowlers.
The key was that the Indian batsmen didn’t click on the away tours, and their fragilities were exposed in England and Down Under.
So this series is certainly a chance for the batsmen to restore their pride and the team’s.