Youth-mad India may not take risk with oldies

Chris Rogers’ century in the first innings of the fourth Test that Australia lost was a fairytale come true. Just imagine a 35-year-old making a comeback to Test cricket after having played a lone Test almost five years earlier. Not many at his age would have given themselves a chance to stay in their state team leave aside coming back into the national team, but his perseverance and hard work and consistent performances did the unimaginable, and he won his place back in the Test team.

It did help, of course, that David Warner got into a fight with Joe Root that saw him suspended for a while and so created an opening for Rogers and also that Australia were undecided about Watson’s position in the batting order. The fact that he had been playing county cricket in England helped his cause, since that meant that in an inexperienced batting lineup, he had the benefit of having played in English conditions before.

He did look tense in the first two Tests but came good at Old Trafford where he attacked more and got to 84, and then at Durham, he fulfilled every batsman’s dream of getting a Test century.

He batted well in the second innings too, but the Australian batting, apart from Michael Clarke, is so ordinary and technically inept that England have been able to come back even after one big partnership.

Warner is always going to be a hit-and-miss player, Watson continues to play across his front pad and is caught leg before, and Clarke, their most accomplished batsman, keeps getting bowled playing inside the line of the ball as after his back injury, he cannot stretch fully forward to cover the movement of the ball.

As for the rest of the batsmen, they would struggle to find a place even in the batting line-up of 1977 when most Australian Test players were taken away by Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket.

What has been the clear difference between the two teams is the off-spin of Graeme Swann who picks wickets regularly even after the new- ball bowlers may have struggled to get a breakthrough.

There is also the lower-order batting of England which invariably scores valuable runs and adds to the frustration of the fielding team.

While there has been praise for the Australian new-ball bowlers, especially Ryan Harris, their inability to prise out the lower order has meant that England have ended up with a score that they have been able to defend.

Is there any possibility of a Chris Rogers- like comeback scenario in India? Not likely, considering the obsession with youth. In India, cricketers are written off quicker than saying their last names, so there are very few examples of comebacks in India.

Mohinder Amarnath and Sourav Ganguly were champions at coming back, but they had the inherent talent and were dropped on form, not fitness. When they got back to scoring runs, they could not be kept out and so made the return to the team.

Will that happen in the cases of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan, the three members of the 30-plus club? Yuvraj and Zaheer have just returned to India after a gruelling six-week fitness regime under a personal trainer in France. They are looking supremely fit and are raring to go but will they get the chance is the moot question.

India’s new-ball bowlers have been pretty inconsistent and many times it has looked as if they are lacking in guidance.

This is where Zaheer Khan’s experience will come in handy, especially on the demanding tour of South Africa. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is just coming through and Ishant continues to bowl that wee bit short of the consideral length.

Having Zaheer at mid on/off would be a huge plus for both these bowlers who look up to ‘Zak’, and they will be able to utilise the conditions in South Africa that much better.

The Indian batting openers have done remarkably well in the series against the Australians, so it is not going to be easy for Sehwag to make a comeback as an opener.

Mind you, after the tour to South Africa, India may well be looking at another opener so Sehwag could then get back provided he has scored tons of runs in domestic cricket. In the middle order, there is a vacancy which again will need experience and that is where Yuvraj can fit in. He has not helped his cause by getting out in the 60s when a hundred would have assured him a few more chances.

But looking at his state of readiness, the early-season form could well be a determining factor. Experience is a priceless asset to have especially in tough conditions.

South Africa, the number one Test team in the world, is going to be one of the hardest tours India will make. A combination of youth and experience is what India need to win a Test series there.

Will there be a Chris Rogers story in Indian cricket? Only time will tell.

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