India's batting, so celebrated in terms of numbers, ended 2011 scarcely breaching the 300 mark on tour. It hasn't got the attention it deserved.
Except for brief periods in India's history, the batting has tended to dominate and has needed to put runs on the board to give the bowlers something to play with. But Rahul Dravid apart — and even he added a touch of rust to the chrome in the last week of the year — the rest have fired sporadically. At Melbourne the bowlers largely did their job but the batsmen capitulated. Little has changed. India still need the openers to play the new ball to achieve both runs and comfort.
The bowling provided two bright sparks in 2011 if you briefly cast aside Yuvraj Singh's emergence as a bowler that gave India the balance the team needed at the World Cup. Ravichandran Ashwin suggested that he could be a regular No. 8 in addition to a hard-working spinner. And while Praveen Kumar's injury prevented us from looking at him in greater detail, the arrival of Umesh Yadav was heart-warming. A fast bowler who wants to bowl fast needs to be looked after.
I just wonder if the decision not to chase the target in the last Test in the West Indies was symbolic of something. India's batting struggled to dominate after that, even scraping through a home Test against the West Indies. To be fair, India were outclassed in England but there has never been a better opportunity to beat Australia in Australia. Well as the home side played, and outstandingly as the young bowlers bowled, India missed a trick in Melbourne.
This business of losing the first Test is now a team phenomenon, part of Indian cricket's DNA. It shouldn't be, but it has happened far too often for a contrary viewpoint. There is often talk of fighting back, as in South Africa towards the end of 2010, but far too little of the need to fight back. I am continually amazed at how little attention this gets. Winning a series is difficult in itself — India have never done so in Australia - but to win it from a perpetually one-down position is virtually impossible.
For a renaissance in 2012, and more immediately in Australia, the batting needs to put big runs on the board. Otherwise 2012 could be the year of the churn in Indian cricket.
Ajinkya Rahane's success so far, and it is important to remember that it has only been two innings as I write this, is an interesting development for both young cricketers and selectors. ... Continue reading More »More time in domestic cricket will benefit young Indians