Indian cricket had a happy fortnight. The youth team won the World Cup. The senior team crushed New Zealand, thanks to a long-awaited revival of its spin department. Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha combined to take 31 out of the 40 Kiwi wickets in the series. It was a nod to the last decade when Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh would decimate visiting sides.
Runs for Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara also brought relief. It was also heartening to see them trying to be their own persons, expressing themselves in their own style instead of being pigeon-holed into the roles played by the recently-retired greats.
But don’t let the 2-0 score-line fool you into believing that all’s well with the Indian squad. Beating a depleted team on the dry wickets at home is one thing; being ready for tougher challengers like South Africa and Australia quite another.
The new selection committee will be named in a few days. We have a list of issues we hope they can take head-on instead of the thumb-twiddling of Srikkanth & Co.
FIX THE OPENING COMBINATION
The partnership that formed the basis for many Indian victories is now floundering. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir both haven’t made a Test hundred since 2010. Their best performances of late have all come at home, against less-than-threatening attacks. In Australia, their best effort together was a miserable 26. Gambhir’s Test form since the World Cup is poor: he averaged 17 in England, 39 at home against West Indies, 22.6 in Australia and 19.3 against New Zealand. Pace bowlers have exploited his weakness outside the off-stump.
Gambhir’s failures also affect Sehwag. He bats at his best when there’s stability at the other end, which allows him to play freely. At the moment, his hunger for the big hundred is missing, and he’s tended to throw away his wicket after blazing starts. There’s young Ajinkya Rahane waiting for his turn. Is it time for one of these two to step aside?
FIND SOME FAST BOWLERS
The New Zealand Test series seemed a throwback to the time when Indian pacers were required to do little more than take the shine off the ball. The spin department has been reinforced by Ojha and Ashwin. But where are the pacers besides Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav? Srikkanth’s selection committee has presided over the ruin of India’s vast pace arsenal. Talented bowlers like Praveen Kumar, Sreesanth, RP Singh, Abhimanyu Mithun and Ashok Dinda have been used and thrown away at various points during the past four years.
There have been some blink-and-miss appearances too: Sudeep Tyagi, Pankaj Singh, Jaydev Unadkat and Varun Aaron. There has been no continuity of thought with their selections. They’re good to represent the country one day, not-so-good the next. It’s time to reclaim these lost assets.
FIND A BETTER NO. 6
He is one of the most thrilling limited-overs batsmen around and a fantastic fielder too, but Suresh Raina doesn’t cut it as a Test batsman. Except for one nerve-calming century on debut in Sri Lanka, the left-hander has seemed like a fish out of water in Test cricket. His discomfort against pace bowling is well-known. But he’s also struggling to negotiate off-spinners.
It’s incredible he’s still in the Test side despite averaging 13 in his previous series (England). But he has skipper MS Dhoni’s support — something that more accomplished First Class players don’t. Subramaniam Badrinath, aged 32 and with an average of 60, has played just two Tests. When will he get his due?
PLAN FOR TENDULKAR’S EXIT
Sachin Tendulkar plays when he wants to and vacations when he wants to. That works when he’s getting runs. But he isn’t getting many at the moment. Failing three times in a row against a low-ranked team like NZ is galling particularly when that opportunity could have been used to groom a deserving youngster.
Srikkanth & Co. failed miserably in planning for the exits of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, creating a situation where inexperienced players had to replace them. The new selectors would do well to not repeat this mistake with Tendulkar. It would be a bummer to see the great man go, but that day is not far.
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