Tag Archives: Ashwin

The 5 bowler strategy will be tested

Virat Kohli has been vocal about the 5 bowler strategy since he took over the test captaincy in Australia. India tried Harbhajan as the 5th bowler in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka hoping that Ashwin, Mishra and Harbhajan can compensate for the 7th batsmen in the team. The biggest problem for India though is that they haven’t found a reliable bowling all-rounder yet to successfully incorporate the 5 bowler strategy.

The other problem the team management will face is the batting combination. It is clear that the team think tank supports the selection of Rohit Sharma in the X1, but with the arrival of Pujara the debate begins once again. Rohit played at number 5 in the second and third tests in Sri Lanka and did reasonably okay at that spot. It is certain that Murali Vijay and Shikar Dhawan will reclaim their spots as the openers in the first test against SA which will push Pujara to number 3 in the order. Virat Kohli will bat at number 4 and Rahane at number 5.

This makes the selection very interesting. Considering Indian think tank still wants to employ 5 bowlers strategy that leaves only one spot open which will be taken by a wicketkeeper. So it will be interesting as to what combination India will play in the first test. The selection of Rohit Sharma is just one end of the stick. The other issue which India will face is getting a bowling all-rounder to occupy the number 7 spot if at all they decide to go with 5 bowlers.

India employed Stuart Binny for the last 2 tests in Sri Lanka. Binny did okay in those games but again he will not be that effective on Indian pitches. He might score some runs but his bowling will not be that effective on pitches which will be aiding spinners in all probability. In Indian conditions the team would need a spin bowling all-rounder to occupy the number 7 spot. India already has Ravichandran Ashwin who is a decent bowling all-rounder and Amit Mishra showed that he can handle the bat competently to score some useful runs down the order. Now the options for a spin bowling all-rounder is minimal.

Couple of years back Ravindra Jadeja was a certainty in the Indian team but his form has gone south in the last couple of years. His performance in the one off game against Bangladesh A was nothing to write home about. The other option India has is Karn Sharma. Karn’s performance in Adelaide on a turning track does not inspire much confidence on his test match bowling ability. His batting too wasn’t too flash in that game. The last and final option India has is Axar Patel. Axar has done well for India in limited opportunities he has received in the shorter formats but his credentials as a test match bowler is questionable.

So considering the above options for the 5th bowler, it will be interesting to see if India does decide to go with the 5 bowler option at all for the tests against SA. The return of the injured players and the arrival of Pujara back in to the X1 leaves the think tank with more headaches than they could handle. The batting combination needs to be worked out and the decision of Pujara or Rohit needs to be made ahead of the first test. This could also mean that India could ditch the 5 bowler strategy and play both Pujara and Rohit in the X1. If they decide to drop Rohit and play an all-rounder, it will be interesting to see whom they will pick. There are plenty of things to worry about for the Indian think tank ahead of the test series against South Africa. It will be interesting to see what combination Kohli & Co will go for in the test series.

CW2015 – India needs to decide on the team combination soon

The Indian team hasn’t had a great start to the ODI Tri-Series. After losing a hard fought game to Australia in the opener, they have been hammered by England in the second game. While the first game was marred by poor lower order batting, the second game had a complete batting failure.

With the World cup just a month away India seem to be having a boat load of issues with the team combination. Let us look at the problem areas for the team ahead of the marquee tournament.

The Openers:

India played 2 different combinations in the first two games and Shikhar Dhawan has struggled to score in both those games. After an underwhelming test series with the bat Dhawan seems to be struggling to put bat to ball in his favorite format of the game. It seems like India needs to take the harsh decision and give the Rohit/Rahane combination a chance in the remaining games. Rohit scored a hundred in the first game and Rahane looked good in the second before throwing his wicket away to a poor shot. The opening combination is the most important thing in Australia/New Zealand and it can make or break a team. India need to decide on what combination they are planning to field in the world cup and play that duo in the upcoming games in the tri-series and in the warm up games leading to the world cup.

 The Middle Order:

India has experimented quite a lot in this area as well. Virat Kohli who was India’s permanent fixture at number 3 has been pushed to number 4 for some strange reason. Ambati Rayudu was used at number 3 at the Gabba. Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni complete the Indian middle order. Virat Kohli should bat at 3 in all games, as he is India’s best ODI player. Suresh Raina will bat at 5 followed by MS Dhoni at 6. So that leaves Ambati Rayudu at number 4. The positions of Raina and Rayudu can be changed based on the team situation but India ideally should play Kohli at 3 and Rayudu at 4. India does not have too much room for experimentation in this regard as they haven’t picked another middle order batsman. Rahane who can double as a middle order batsman may have to open since Dhawan hasn’t been scoring any runs.

The All-rounders:

This is a very interesting spot for the Indian team. India has picked potentially 4 all-rounders. 3 of them are spin bowling all-rounders and one a medium pace all-rounder. It will be interesting to see which combination India will play at the world cup. Stuart Binny did a decent job in the game at Gabba scoring 44 runs with the bat and picking up the only wicket to fall. Once Ravi Jadeja is fit, I don’t think India will be playing Akshar Patel in the X1. The tussle for the one spin all-rounder will be between Jadeja and Ashwin. India might play both of them in venues which might have some help for the spinners and play one of them in the combination of Binny in the other venues. Jadeja has been Dhoni’s go to man in ODI’s, so it will be fair to assume that he will be India’s first choice spinner in the world cup.

The Bowling:

This will be the most talked about combination for India ahead of the world cup. Looking at the squad selected for the world cup, it is pretty hard to imagine how India is going to take 10 wickets in the game. The bowlers as seen in the test matches don’t have any control over the scoring with the new ball, which is going to be crucial in the world cup. Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami haven’t been the most economical bowlers for India and haven’t been that effective with the new ball. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has struggled in Australia and hasn’t been able to pick up too many wickets. This leaves just Ishant who hasn’t played in the on-going tri-series due to an injury and might not take part in the rest of the series as well. This will mean that India will struggle to find the right bowling combination for the world cup. Ideally India should play Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant and Shami/Umesh. India cannot play both Shami and Umesh in the X1. Even though Ishant and Bhuvneshwar might not get you too many wickets, they can at least give you some much needed control with the new ball building up some pressure. Shami is good with the old ball which might help Dhoni to keep him for the middle and later overs.

So all in all it does look like a very tall order for the Indians to defend the world cup in Australia and New Zealand. The Indian bowling has relied a lot on spinners over the last year or so but in Australia/New Zealand they wouldn’t be that effective. India did not pick a wrist spinner in their squad which might work against them in the world cup. The batting too looks unsettled and with players looking out of form. Things do not look great for Dhoni and Fletcher ahead of the world cup at this point. India needs to decide on their best X1 in the upcoming couple of games as they don’t have too much room to experiment anyways with the World Cup Squad. The non-selection of an additional middle order bat and an additional pacer might work against the team in the world cup.

Below is my X1 for the world cup. The below X1 is the best combination I feel India can put up from the squad selected for the world cup.

India X1 (WC): Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli (VC), Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (C, WKT), Stuart Binny, Ravi Ashwin/Ravi Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami

Bowling a major concern on an already disappointing tour

Mahindra Singh Dhoni

Dhoni will be hoping for a better performance from the young team in the test matches

The ODI series was a major disappointment for the young Indian team. The Indian team which reached the New Zealand shores as number 1 in the world was knocked off the perch by the spirited hosts. The Indian team struggled on the field with the ball and their much celebrated batting lineup failed to get the team out of the hole this time. The bowling attack has been extremely disappointing and as Dhoni said the team is still not certain about the bowling combination for the world cup in 2015.

The pacers were not able to stem the flow of runs and the spinners were not able to get the breakthroughs in the middle overs. Mohd Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar started all the games well with wickets at the top but lost steam in the middle and later overs. The third seamer was extremely disappointing too. Varun Aaron and Ishant Sharma both went for plenty of runs and it is extremely difficult to imagine who will be part of the Indian team in a year’s time.

The spin department struggled to get wickets on this tour. Jadeja and Ashwin comparatively were economical to the rest of the attack but they hardly picked any wickets in the 5 games they played. Even though Ashwin and Jadeja lengthen the Indian batting order, their primary job is bowling and it seems like they would not be that effective overseas. India needs to find spinners who can pick up wickets in the middle overs along with containing the batsmen. The New Zealand batsmen were never in any pressure to accelerate as the bowling was extremely pedestrian and allowed the batsmen lots of freebees to score their runs from.

The batting too was extremely disappointing. Rohit Sharma and Dhawan struggled throughout and so did the middle order of Rahane and Raina. India dropped Raina in the later part of the series and Rayudu was reasonably okay but never kicked on after starts. The Shining lights of Indian batting again were Kohli and Dhoni. The both of them were the reason why India got closer in all the games. This has thrown lots of Indian plans haywire as this series has shown that the Indian ODI side is not as effective overseas as they would have imagined.

India would be defending their title in less than year in New Zealand and Australia and this series should mark as a wakeup call. The bowling attack needs to be seriously looked at and it will be interesting as to what changes we can see for the next all important tour to England. The test series which begins in a day will give the young Indian team to perform better and salvage something from an already disastrous tour. The batting has a chance to redeem themselves in the test series but the bowling will be the one on the scanner again.

It will be interesting to see who will partner Zaheer Khan and Mohd Shami in the first test. Umesh Yadav should be in the top of the pile to be considered for the first test. Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishwar Pandey will be fighting for one spot if India plans to go with 4 pacers. India would also be picking from Ashwin and Jadeja as the lone spinning all-rounder in the squad. Jadeja was excellent in South Africa and the only concern for Dhoni will be his batting. Ashwin hasn’t bowled well in the last couple of months so it will be a hard decision for the think tank to make.

The test series will begin tomorrow and India need to perform well to salvage something out of this tour. India got very close to winning the first test in South Africa and Dhoni will be hoping that the team would bounce back from the disappointing ODI series. The Indian test team looks more settled than the ODI team. The inclusion of Pujara will be very reassuring for the middle order and Rahane might get pushed up the order to accommodate another pacer in the squad. It will be an interesting series between two young sides and both teams would be hoping for great performance in the coming few days..

India Vs New Zealand – Can India fight back?

New Zealand team is on a high. They have just knocked India off their perch and are sitting pretty in the series with a 2-0 lead. Their batting and bowling is doing great and they have the Indian team under pressure. The Indian team though has been struggling with both bat and ball. The only reason they came close in both the ODI’s is because of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni being in great form.

The bowling is a bigger concern. Except for Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami, Indian bowling has been really poor. They haven’t been able to keep the runs down nor have they been able to take wickets. Ishant Sharma has been really poor and India needs to drop him for sure. He has not been able to keep the lid on the scoring after good opening spells by Kumar and Shami. He hasn’t picked up wickets either. Varun Aaron finally might be able to get a look in.

The spin bowling too needs a rethink from the Indian think tank. Ashwin hasn’t picked up any wickets over the last 2 months and he hasn’t been too economical either. It will be prudent on the part of the think tank to include either the seam bowling all-rounder Binny or replace Ashwin with Mishra. India has Rohit and Raina already who can bowl some good part-time spin if needed. It will be interesting to see if Dhoni does change the combination in this all important game.

The opening also been a concern. Dhawan and Rohit have been really slow at the top putting tremendous pressure on the middle order. Rohit has been really slow at the top of the order and he hasn’t been able to capitalize on the starts either. Rohit’s strike rate outside Asia is a poor 72.03 and his average also is a modest 35. India needs to make a decision whether to push the inform Rahane to open with Dhawan and pushing Rohit to the middle order.

This is a crucial game for the Indian team and the think tank needs to make some harsh decisions. Dhoni has been really adamant with his team selections and it hasn’t worked out for him till now in the 5 overseas ODI’s. This is a must win game for the Indians and it will be interesting to see how the young players respond.

India VS New Zealand – India needs to rethink their team composition

The Indian team has been on the road for the past couple of months and they are yet to win an international game. The major concern for India is their bowling and batting has failed collectively in the one day games. The bowling after the new ball has struggled to maintain any sort of control over the scoring and the spinners haven’t been able to exert pressure in the middle overs. The only silver lining for the Indian team was that Shami and Bhuvneshwar bowled well in the death overs in the first ODI in Napier.

India needs to revisit their team composition. The batting has struggled against short pitched bowling except for Kohli and Dhoni and the bowling has struggled with control. Ishant Sharma has struggled to exert pressure with the ball. His spell completely negated the great start India had with the new ball. Ishant needs to be replaced with Varun Aaron. Ishant has struggled over the past couple of months and his economy rate is too high to be in the ODI team at the moment. Varun Aaron has pace and he had shown in the past that he can be accurate too.

The other position India need to look at is the all-rounder spot. Jadeja had done that effectively in the past but India needs to pick between him and Ashwin as the lone spinner in the team. Stuart Binny needs to get a look in as the bowling all-rounder. Binny bowls seam up and is a handy hitter down the order. He might give India the variety Dhoni has been looking for in these conditions. Dhoni needs to realize that it was bowlers like Binny who did wonderfully well in the New Zealand teams of the past. India has Rohit Sharma and Raina to bowl some part time spin if needed.

The batting also has struggled a bit with the start. Rohit Sharma who was in great form before the SA tour is really struggling at the moment. India needs to consider the possibility of pushing Rahane up the order. Rahane is a very good player of short pitched bowling and has been in great form. Dhawan showed some glimpses of regaining his touch in the first ODI and hopefully he can cash in on the same to play a long innings in the second game. Kohli has been in great touch and so has been the captain Dhoni.

The Indian team has played with the tried and tested combination over the past couple of months and it has not worked. The team needs to bite the bullet and take some harsh decisions. The current combination isn’t working and it is only prudent to change the team according to the conditions you are playing in. It will be interesting to see if Dhoni and Fletcher do make these changes for the important second ODI. Indian needs to win the second ODI to remain at the top of the rankings and this will be an important game for the visitors.

India gear up for New Zealand challenge – ODI series preview

India kicks off their New Zealand tour at Napier tomorrow where they play their first ODI against the hosts. India had a pretty disastrous ODI series against South Africa. The bowling completely disintegrated and the batting struggled to stand up to South African pace attack. The disappointing series could have been attributed to lack of practice prior to the ODI series but the team does not have such excuses this time.

The Indian squad has some changes for the New Zealand tour from the team which lost to South Africa earlier last month. Bowling again is going to be of great concern for the Indian team considering the small grounds and short boundaries. Let us look at the ODI squad selected for the New Zealand tour:

Squad: MS Dhoni (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Ishwar Pandey, Stuart Binny, Varun Aaron

The squad is pretty good and except for Yuvraj the batting is almost the same as the one which toured South Africa in December. The absence of Yuvraj means Rahane and Rayudu fight for a single spot. Ajinkya Rahane was one of the bright spots for India in the South African series and is also a great fielder. He will most probably play in the first ODI ahead of Rayudu. The rest of the batting is expected to remain the same. Dhawan and Rohit would want to forget the South African series in a hurry and would want to put up a better performance at the start. The middle order is almost settled with Kohli, Rahane/Rayudu and Raina. Jadeja will play as the all-rounder and it will be a tossup between Ashwin and Binny.

MS Dhoni has always been fascinated with a medium pace all-rounder, so it will be interesting to see if he will play Binny ahead of Ashwin. The New Zealand pitches will aid seamers and Binny will be a useful option. India already has Jadeja and can use Rohit Sharma and Raina as off-spinning options if needed. The other interesting selection will be the pace bowlers. Varun Aaron makes a comeback to the squad after almost 3 years and provides a quick bowling option for the Indian captain. Shami Ahmed will be a sure starter for the first ODI but it will be interesting to see who will take the new ball with him.

Ishant Sharma is in the squad but I expect Bhuvneshwar Kumar to play ahead of him. Ishant had a pretty bad tour in South Africa and India would benefit playing a completely fresh attack in New Zealand. Ishwar Pandey is another option India has to mull over ahead of the first ODI in Napier. It will be interesting to see what combination India will play in the first ODI.

This is an important tour for the young team. They are ranked number 1 in the world and they are expected to beat the 8th ranked New Zealand team comfortably. Dhoni will hope that the team can step up to the challenge and put up a good performance. It will be an interesting series and it will be great to see the young team battling out in conditions unfamiliar to them. The batting came out with flying colors at the end of the South African tour and now it is time for the bowling to step up.

South Africa Test series – India team report card

The short and quick tour of South Africa comes to an end and India leave the SA shores with continued concerns with the bowling attack. While Kohli, Pujara and Rahane did exceedingly well with the bat, the Indian bowling continued to struggle to take 20 wickets overseas. The Indian lower order is also a cause for concern as Dhoni and Jadeja do not look reliable number 7 and 8 in tests. Below are the ratings of Indian players based on their performances in SA test series.

Shikhar Dhawan- (Matches: 2, Innings: 4, Runs: 76, Ave: 19, HS: 29) – (Rating: 2)

Shikhar came into this series with some very good performances in ODI’s. Even though there were some concerns over his technique, he was expected to make some runs on this tour. Dhawan had some starts on the tour but failed to convert any of those. His struggle against short pitched stuff would have been noted by bowlers of the other countries. He should be ready to be tested a lot on his upcoming tours. Shikhar will be extremely disappointed with his performance on this tour and will be hoping to correct the same in New Zealand next month.

Murali Vijay – (M: 2, Inn: 4, Runs: 148, Ave: 37, HS: 97) – (Rating: 6)

Murali Vijay showed that he has the technique and patience required to succeed overseas. He did an excellent job seeing off the new ball and played with lots of conviction against Steyn, Morkel and Philander. Vijay though will be extremely disappointed that he did not convert his starts to big scores and he loses some points for that. He would like to correct that in the upcoming tours. Being an opener, he needs to make most of the good starts and score big hundreds as it would take some pressure off the middle order.

Cheteshwar Pujara – (M: 2, Inn: 4, Runs: 280, Ave: 70, HS: 153) – (Rating: 9)

Pujara was one of the success stories on the short tour to South Africa. The youngster once again showed that he has the technique and temperament to carry the Indian batting forward for years to come. He showed excellent technique against the new ball and also proved that he can attack once the bowlers were little tired. His innings of 153 was an absolute gem and the way he attacked the SA bowlers in the final session was great to watch.

Virat Kohli – (M: 2, Inn: 4, Runs: 272, Ave: 68, HS: 119) (Rating: 9)

Before the start of this tour, Virat was the only Indian batsman with a test century outside subcontinent and was expected to lead from the front. Virat did that with flying colors in the first test with a brilliant ton against Steyn, Morkel and Philander on a pitch which was swinging and seaming a lot on the first day. Virat looked extremely comfortable and once against proved that he is one of the best young players in the world at the moment. Along with Pujara, Virat held the Indian batting together in both the tests and with an average of 68, he was one of the rocks of Indian batting on this tour.

Rohit Sharma – (M: 2, Inn: 4, Runs: 45, Ave: 11.25, HS: 25) (Rating: 2)

Rohit Sharma had an extremely poor tour and there is no two ways about it. It is not that he is not talented but his penchant for chasing wide deliveries outside off stump came back to haunt him again in this series. An average of 11.25 with a high score of 25 shows the predicament India find themselves with Rohit. He was the in form player at the start of this series and a lot was expected of him in this series. Rohit would want to quickly forget about this tour and would want to make an impact in the upcoming New Zealand tour. The only reason he gets any ratings at all is because he took couple of catches in the slips.

Ajinkya Rahane – (M: 2, Inn: 4, Runs: 209, Ave: 69.66, HS: 96) (Rating: 9)

Ajinkya Rahane was the surprise package of the tour. Everyone knew that this young man was talented but the ease with which he played the South African pacers was something unexpected. Rahane showed that he is one for the future and can serve the Indian middle order for a long time. Most of the times in the series he ran out of partners, if not he would have scored more runs. India needs to stick with him and along with Virat and Pujara; he can form a great middle order for years to come.

MS Dhoni – (M: 2 Inn: 4, Runs: 87, Ave: 21.25, HS: 29, Cat: 3) (Rating: 4)

MS Dhoni will be extremely disappointed with the way he batted in this series. It is a known fact that Dhoni isn’t a reliable batting option overseas but on this tour he was guilty of throwing away few good starts. Especially in the first innings of the Durban test when India were 320 odd for 5, Dhoni had a great opportunity to drive home the advantage with a good partnership with Rahane but it was not to be. Knowing how fragile the Indian lower order is, India cannot afford to have a non-performing Wicket keeping option. Dhoni needs to contribute more with the bat overseas if he wants to continue as the Indian wicket keeper. His captaincy too came in for lots of criticism and his usage of bowlers were bizarre in the first test while India were pressing for victory.

Ravindra Jadeja – (M: 1, Inn: 2, R: 8, Ave: 4, HS: 8, W: 6, Ave: 25.66, SR: 62.3) (Rating: 7)

Ravindra Jadeja played in the Indian team in the second test as the specialist spinner and as an all-round option. He was brilliant with the ball and troubled the South African batsmen. He was kind of a lone warrior in the first innings in Durban where he picked 6 wickets while the rest of the bowling struggled. He has probably sealed his spot as the premier spinning option overseas with this performance. The only thing which will concern the Indian think tank is his batting. His irresponsible batting in the second innings in Durban when India was looking to save the test was shocking. He had Rahane batting beautifully at the other end but decided to attack Peterson and got caught. Considering how poor Indian lower order has been India needs substantial contribution with the bat from Jadeja who is playing in the team as an bowling all-rounder.

Ravichandran Ashwin – (M: 1, Inn: 2, R: 18, Ave: 18, HS: 11*, W: 0) (Rating: 2)

Ashwin began this tour as India’s premier spinner but at the end of the series has lost out to Jadeja. Ashwin did not have any redeeming factors in the first test. He did not bowl well and his batting too did not set the world on fire. He did bowl economically in the second innings of the first test but as the premier spinner he was expected to take wickets which he did not. It will be interesting to see his role in the future tours as Jadeja looks a sure starter in the first test against New Zealand next month.

Ishant Sharma – (M: 2, Inn: 4, W: 5, Ave: 62.60, SR: 108.0, BB: 4/79) (Rating: 3)

It was yet another frustrating tour for Ishant Sharma. An average of 62 and a Strike rate of 108 will do a batsman proud but for the premier bowler of a team with 50 tests behind him those are shocking numbers. The only reason Ishant finds himself in the team is because of his experience and I am not sure how long the selectors will continue placing faith in him. India needs to look past Ishant as he has been mediocre over the years. He needs to get back to the basics and probably spend couple of years in domestic cricket. The only reason he gets a rating is because of his good spell in the first innings of the first test.

Zaheer Khan – (M: 2, Inn: 4, W: 7, Ave: 45.71, SR: 75.8, BB: 4/88) (Rating: 4)

This was the comeback series for Zaheer and much was expected from him as the leader of the back. Zaheer has been with the Indian team thrice to South Africa prior to this series and was expected to use all of his experience to guide an inexperienced team on this tour. He started off well in the first test but lost steam by the time India reached Durban. The veteran though went past 300 test wickets becoming only second Indian pacer after Kapil Dev to reach that number. Zaheer will be hoping to do better in the New Zealand test series where he has a brilliant record in the past. We need him to guide the Indian pacers in some vicinity, if not a player at least as a consultant.

Mohammed Shami – (M: 2, Inn: 4, W: 6, Ave: 43.83, SR: 75, BB: 3/107) (Rating: 5)

Shami was the least experienced Indian bowler on this tour and even though his numbers don’t show it, he bowled with great heart. He was the only bowler who looked threatening and was always attacking the stumps. Shami needs to be persisted with and hopefully he will become a reliable bowler India has been looking for a long time. India would be hoping that he will continue to develop and will lead the Indian bowling for years to come after Zaheer hangs up his boots.

Tough task ahead for team India

After a disastrous ODI series, India would be looking to put up a better show against the hosts in the upcoming test series. The Indian batting and bowling failed collectively in the ODI series to hand South Africa an easy series victory. It will be interesting to see how this young team will bounce back from the humiliation they suffered at the hands of the hosts.

South Africa hasn’t been an easy place for the touring teams over the last couple of years. Both Pakistan and Australia have been bowled out under 50 in the respective previous tours on these pitches. Steyn, Morkel and Philander have been brilliant at home and been a nightmare to the visiting teams. It will be a great test of character for the Indian young batsmen to stand up against this bowling attack on difficult pitches.

The Indian bowling too will have a great part to play in this series. Even though the focus is squarely on the young batsmen, the bowling has to deliver good performances on these wickets. The South African batsmen have shown vulnerability against good swing bowling in the past and have been bowled out for sub 100 scores both by India and Australia in the past few years. Here is where inclusion of Zaheer will play a great part. He will bring the consistency which was lacking from the Indian bowling in the ODI series. It will be interesting to see who will take the new ball along with him in the first test.

Ishant Sharma’s great performance in the final ODI might put some doubts in Dhoni’s mind. Shami seems to be a sure starter along with Zaheer and it will be between, Ishant, Bhuvneshwar and Yadav for the third seamer spot. Ashwin probably will be the lone spinner in the team and India is likely to go with 7 batsmen.

The Indian batting will always be placed under scrutiny when they travel abroad. The young batting order sans the retired greats will feel the pressure after the dismal showing in the ODI series. This is not the first time though that an Indian team has struggled in the ODI series in South Africa. In 2006, India were hammered 4-0 in the ODI series but managed to shock the hosts in the first test to go up 1-0. The Indian team has performed well in their last two yours here which might give them some confidence going into the first test on the 18th.

The opening stand will be of huge importance in the upcoming series and the new middle order of Pujara, Kohli and Rohit will have to bat with responsibility. It will be between Rayudu and Rahane for the 6th batting spot. India might even think of playing Saha as a specialist batsman at number 6 considering he has done that in the past in Australia. It will be interesting to see what combination India will field in the first test.

It will be a huge test for this young Indian team and will probably set the tone for a tough 2014 ahead. The young batsmen have lots to prove and this will be a huge step in the right direction if they can put up a good show. This tour also will determine how good the Indian bowling resources are and in the presence of Zaheer it gives the young pacemen a chance to learn a trick or two from the veteran.

This will be an interesting series and India enters the same as the underdog and rightfully so. The fact that no one expects a miracle from them might work in the favor of this young team. The ODI series is done and dusted and this is a new format and the young Indian team should approach the same with confidence. I hope that we have a very competitive series and I hope that the young Indian team put up a fighting performance in the two test series.

Probable Indian X1: Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, C Pujara, V Kohli, R Sharma, Saha/Rahane/Rayudu, MS Dhoni (Capt. Wkt.), R Ashwin, Mohd Shami, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma/Umesh Yadav.

Can England overcome the Indian spin challenge?

1984/85 was the last time an English team won a test series on Indian soil. It has been a long wait and in that time India had developed into a dominant force at home. India have lost only one series at home in the last decade. But this time though the hosts are the most vulnerable. The Indian team has just lost great players in the middle order and is trying to find the ideal replacements. The bowling too is going through a transitional phase.

The time when Anil Kumble used to torment the visiting teams on turning surfaces are long gone and India are playing with two young spinners who are trying to make a mark. Ravichandran Ashwin has had a great beginning to his career and in partnership with Pragyan Ojha has done a great job in the home tests. The spin partnership will obviously be tested to the fullest against a tough English team. With all due respect to New Zealand and West Indies who toured earlier, this is probably the toughest batting line up to which the Indian spinners would bowl to.

The Indian team will be hoping that their openers fire. The middle order of Kohli, Sachin and Yuvraj will be the key against the English spinners. India will also hope to have a fit Zaheer throughout the series.

The English team too has their fair share of worries. They will be thrilled to have Kevin Pieterson back in the team to bolster the middle order. The English batting line up has struggled to play in the subcontinent on turning surfaces. Even though the Indian spinners are not in the same class as Ajmal, they would be surely a handful on the subcontinent wickets. The English team has a lot to prove and a win in India will surely be a huge step.

The English batting will rely on Cook, Trott and Pieterson to put up big totals and Swann to lead the bowling attack. England will know that batting well in India is extremely important and under these conditions countering the Indian spin attack will be a challenge.

This test series will be extremely important to both teams. This is a start of a tough home season for India and they would want to start that with a convincing win. The English team after faltering in Dubai and Sri Lanka would want to prove that they can play well in the subcontinent conditions. There is no doubt that this series will be decided as who wins the battle between the Indian spinners and the English batsman.

The series takes off tomorrow and the fans would be hoping for a tight contest. The Indian team will want to win this convincingly and the English team will want to deny the hosts the same. Let the games begin!!

Problems galore for team India

Indian bowling has always been under the scanner. Every premier tournament starts with same concerns for India and this time is no different. In the 2011 World Cup India’s bowling was brilliantly led by Zaheer Khan. He was not only economical but also ended up as the highest wicket taker of the tournament. Zaheer also received great support from Nehra and Munaf in the crucial games.

The biggest issue for Indian in the ongoing T20 World Cup is the lack of form Zaheer has displayed. He has struggled with the new ball and his death bowling has been awful. The important thing to note is that Zaheer has never been a great T20 bowler. He has always struggled even in the IPL to control the flow of runs. The other two pacers have struggled too. Irfan Pathan has gone for runs and so has Balaji. The Afghanistan match was an eye opener where the pace bowlers were largely ineffective with the new ball.

So India currently just relies on Ravichandran Ashwin and the part-time spin of Yuvraj Singh to put the brakes on the scoring. This is surely not an ideal scenario and for sure not a strategy for a team which is considered as one of the favorites to win it all. India does have Dinda in the dugout who probably could get a look in. Even though Dinda hasn’t played too many international games he seems to be someone suited for the shorter formats. He has a decent international record in the few games he has played and his IPL record is impressive. So India should look to play him in the game against England and probably rest Zaheer for a game? This is something which the think tank needs to weigh in before the super 8’s start.

The selectors have ignored Praveen who would have been handful in Sri Lankan conditions and also someone like Munaf Patel would have been an asset. The lack of Yorkers in the bowling armory of the Indian pacers is disappointing. India has more often than not gone at 10-11 runs an over against good sides in the death overs.

The other major issue for the Indian team has been their openers. Sehwag and Gambhir have struggled to put up decent partnership and in the current scenario look completely out of touch. Gambhir especially has been struggling for form and his confidence seems to be really low at the moment. India probably should try and test out Manoj Tiwary in the middle order and possibly move Kohli to open with Sehwag for the game against England to see how he goes. I would have thought the think tank doing something like that for the warm up games but that was not to be. India have won their easy first game and have booked their spot in the Super 8’s and will have to seriously think about their options.

The bowling surely needs to improve and the batsmen need to find form. In the previous two editions India failed to win a single game in the second stage of the world T20 and on the current evidence it seems like this year might be no different.