Monday, December 17, 2012

India v England - Answers to my questions

Before the India - England test series started, I had some questions which I posted here: http://abhility.blogspot.in/2012/11/questions-to-be-answered-india-v-england.html. With a disappointing result, a 1-2 loss at home to, what I must acknowledge, a very impressive English side, most of these questions have been answered and the results have been disappointing. Here is my take on these issues:
 1) Do Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have a future as test match openers? Sehwag: 253 runs at 36.14 with 1 100. Gambhir: 251 runs at 41.83 with 2 50s. Not exactly poor returns, especially in a side where several others have been struggling much more. And yet, both of them continued to struggle with some of the same issues - that have dogged them in the past two years or so.
Sehwag played only 1 innings of some substance, and mind you that innings went a long way in helping India win the first test, but his game does not give me the assurance that he will be scoring big runs with consistency in the near future. His game has lost a bit of its edge with time, and for a player so reliant on his hand-eye coordination, it is difficult to see him regaining his old form with the passage of time. Gambhir was even more infuriating for me - got some starts and just did not convert them. His technique also looked just as suspect as it has done in the recent past. Add his diabolical running between the wickets at times, and I am not convinced of his worth in our test team. What India needs is openers who can score big and take charge of a series - the stuff Viru and Gauti have done in the past, but look unlikely to replicate in their present form.
What will probably happen is that these two will continue to open in the next series India plays, given their decent return in this series, but I would prefer 1 new opener at least against Australia.
2) Will SRT regain his form ? Well, he didn't. Much to my disappointment and anguish. If there is a light at the end of the tunnel - that is his poor form, I am not able to see it at the moment.
3) Does India get a permanent fix for the number six slot ? Hell No ! Yuvraj was tried for 3 tests and he had just 1 50 in that. Ravindra Jadeja, on the back of his triple hundred scoring exploits in Ranji Trophy, got a game at Nagpur and scored just 12. He bowled much better than Yuvraj though (who hardly got much of a bowl) and he will be an interesting option going forward. Meanwhile Rohit Sharma has been scoring plenty domestically and it is increasingly difficult to ignore his claim to a test batting spot.
4) Can Ashwin and Ojha bowl out the English twice ? Well Yes, but they were able to do it only once, at Ahmedabad. For the rest of the series, they were handled well by the English batsmen and comprehensively out bowled by Swann and Panesar. Pragyan Ojha had a decent series, 20 wickets @ 30.65. Ashwin had a very poor one - 14 wickets @ 52.64. Ashwin's lack of consistency in terms of  maintaining a good line and length was particularly disappointing. His batting was a revelation though and India has to make a decison as to how to best use his talents and balance the team.
5) Will we have result pitches ? 3 results out of 4 are not bad. The 4th pitch - at Nagpur - however was a most curious wicket and while it can be argued that there should be no standardisation in terms of pitches, it is hard to see how this pitch could produce a result in most circumstances. The Kolkata pitch was surrounded with controversy, but I found little wrong with it. Ahmedabad was probably the best example of a good Indian batting pitch, but which had enough in it for the bowlers to force a result. Mumbai - had a classic turning track and produced some rivetting cricket as well. Personally I enjoy watching a match on a pitch like the Mumbai one the most, but what India needs is probably more of the Motera type for some time to come.
PS: I managed to attend one day of the series at a ground, Day 4 of the 3rd test at Eden. Yes, that ill fated day, where India crumbled from no wicket for 86 at lunch to 6 for 122 in just about an hour. And yet sitting in the crowd, there were so many things that I cherish about that day. I cherish the frank, serious discussions between complete strangers about technicalities of the game, the feeling of being part of a collective anxiety withing the crowd as Sehwag bats in his parallel universe in the middle, the light hearted banter between the sizeable English contingent and the locals...... But the best part of the day was seeing so many young children, brought to the ground by their parents, or just their fathers, and even just their mothers.... Of dads telling their sons - basic rules about the game, about field placements and strokes. I just wanted to say Thank You to every parent who takes their kid to watch a test match, it is the best time and place for a kid to fall in love with this game. I just hope that our Indian team improves soon because it is easier, not impossible, but easier, to stay in love with a winning team.

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