Tag Archives: West Indies

The A tour raises more questions about the Indian batting reserves

The India A tour to West Indies started off with lots of promise. The series was supposed to showcase the best of Indian talent. With the retirement of Rahul Dravid, his replacement in the test team was of paramount importance. The selectors will be happy that Pujara gave a good account of himself throughout the series to emerge as the prime contender for the number 3 spot in the test team. The major disappointment though was the performance of Rohit Sharma.

Since his debut in 2008 Rohit has been considered as a player with enormous talent. He has represented India in the shorter format for about 4 years now and it does not seem like he is ready to make the step up. He started off the tour with a great 94 in the first innings of the first unofficial test but that was about it. He continued to struggle with his control in the longer format. He continues to throw his wicket away with ridiculous shots after getting set. More importantly he continues to disappoint his fans. It seems like Rohit has to work very hard in order to stake the claim for the test spot.The other person to disappoint this series was Ajinkya Rahane. Another player with brilliant technique and great domestic record who failed to impress on this A tour. Rahane struggled to get of the blocks most of the times in this series and seems to have the same issue as Rohit.

Pujara though was the only success of this test leg of the tour. The man once again proved the gulf between himself and the rest of the pack who are vying for a test spot. He played a brilliant innings in the first test to single handedly win the game for his team and scored runs consistently throughout. The batting was the big issue for the Indians in this A tour and the struggle of these youngsters against West Indies A team is not a good sign for the future. The West Indies gained more from this series than India. The other batsman to impress a bit was Tiwary who looked good in couple of innings. Saha did well with the bat in couple of knocks but none of them were consistent. Mukund was another player who disappointed throughout the series.

It seems like once the shorter format started the youngsters are back in their elements. Rahane and Rohit looked their part in the two T20’s which followed the test series. Does this mean that these players are just good enough for the shorter format? We will not know for sure unless we test them out longer. Is the IPL making these players lose their technique? This can only be answered by the players themselves. It will be interesting to see how these youngsters bounce back from this debacle. All these players are talented but to be able to succeed in test cricket talent alone isn’t enough. The will to fight it out in the middle when the chips are down is something these youngsters need to learn. For now though a test spot seems to be long way away for these youngsters.

The Harbhajan conundrum

Harbhajan Singh is India’s premier spinner, there are now two ways about it. A veteran of almost 100 tests and over 400 wickets, he is one of the best spinners in the world over the years. When Anil Kumble retired in 2008, Harbhajan was expected to take over the mantle as India’s number 1 spinner but for some reason things did not turn out as expected for the genial sardar.

Harbhajan Singh has had a very inconsistent 2-3 years in International cricket and it is hard to determine the cause for the same.

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West Indies series – Excellent opportunity for the youngsters

The team selection for the upcoming West Indies series shows the immense faith the selectors have on the youngsters. The team has the right balance of youth and experience and it will be interesting to see how they fare in the longer format. The series also proves an ideal ground to prepare for the future. West Indies aren’t a force anymore and this young team playing in India will gain immense experience.

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There are no cracks on this wall

It was 1996 and India was touring England. This was the first time I got to see “The Wall” Dravid bat for India. The media coverage those days wasn’t so great for domestic cricket so knowing a player before debut was not that easy. The series did not start well for India as they lost the first test in Edgbaston and as with the case in the 90’s Sachin was the standout performer with a hundred. India decided to go with 2 debutants for the Lord’s test. The 90’s wasn’t a great decade for debutants for India until that point and considering the criticism vented on Ganguly at the start of the tour I wasn’t hoping too much from either Dravid or Ganguly on their debut. How wrong was I?

After dismissing England for 344 in the first Innings, India found themselves in early trouble as usual at 59/2. After few partnerships and brilliant innings by the debutant in the match Sourav Ganguly, India were 202/5 still 142 runs behind the English total. Rahul Dravid the other debutant for India walked in to join Sourav in the middle. It was a great moment for Rahul and like Sourav he did not want to let this opportunity slip. Rahul Dravid even in his first innings at the international level showed great composure and calmness at the wicket. He was a perfect foil for the flamboyant Sourav Ganguly who went on to make a brilliant hundred on debut at Lord’s. Rahul though missed the mark by 5 runs.

In spite of missing the mark he had done enough and a legend was born. For the next 15 years along with Sachin, Sourav and Laxman he has been the vital cog in the Indian middle order. Coming in at number three he has been the India’s most important player overseas and has played quite a few memorable match winning knocks. A player par excellence was named the “The Wall” for his amazing appetite for runs and his extraordinary patience at the crease. He has been a perfect team man often doing what is required of him in the team. He has been pushed around in the batting order even though he has been India’s best number 3 by a distance. He has batted in all positions in the batting order and has also opened when required for his team. He also donned the keeping gloves for a while when India were looking to balance the ODI squad.

There is no question that Rahul has been a perfect role model off the pitch too. He is a soft spoken individual who always says the right thing in the media. It is unfortunate that in spite of all his achievements his position in the team is still questioned. Rahul though has now made an inspired comeback to form. The brilliant hundred in West Indies was followed by two more in England and is our key player once again on overseas tours. He announced his retirement from the shorter forms of the game after the ODI series in England. His performances in the ODI were amazing considering that he was written off as a test player in earlier part of his career.

The West Indies tour and the subsequent England tour have proven that the youngsters are not ready to replace the legends, so Rahul’s decision augurs well for the team. Rahul has been a great role model and a brilliant player over the years for India and I hope that he has a wonderful last few years in the Indian test side. He has given us wonderful memories through his batting and it will be sad when he eventually decides to hang up his boots. I wish that he has wonderful end to his career and hopefully will have few more great years in international cricket for team India.

West Indies tour – The pull outs continue

The West Indies tour continued to suffer as more first choice players from the Indian team continue to pull out ahead of the test series. This time it is the turn of Zaheer and Sreesanth. The Indian team will now be without their first choice seamers for the test series. Abhinav Mithun and Praveen Kumar have been named as the replacements. Sometimes it is hard to understand the thinking behind some selections and Praveen’s is a curious one.

Mithun though I understand as he did not do that badly in the test series against the Sri Lankans last year but Praveen’s selection comes as a surprise. If Praveen gets a game this will be his debut for India in the longer format. Munaf and Ishant are already part of the squad, so I am assuming they will be in the starting X1 for the first game at least. Mishra and Bajji will most probably play in most of the games considering how poorly West Indies batsmen have handled spin on this tour. If the need arises to play a third seamer it will be interesting to see who India will play in the X1. So the Indian team who are already light on experience in batting will be suffering the same in the bowling department too.

The Indian team needs to win 3-0 in the test series in order to not lose any points in the test championship race. With the pull outs it will be miraculous if they achieve the same. The batting now will completely rely on Dravid and Laxman and the bowling on Bajji and Mishra. I hope that the youngsters can perform well and continue the good work they have been doing in the series already. The team under Suresh Raina has already won the ODI series and now Dhoni’s challenge would be to captain a young team to victory in tests. The pull outs though have made the series more competitive and give the West Indies a chance to upset the Indian team.

Test squad: MS Dhoni (capt), VVS Laxman (vc), M Vijay, Abhinav Mukund, Rahul Dravid, Virat Kohli, S Badrinath, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Mithun, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel.

West Indies Tour – Time to test the bench strength

The Indian selectors were forced to sort of send an A team to West Indies under Suresh Raina as most of the senior players decided to either rest or missed out due to injury. The biggest offenders were Sehwag and Ghambir as they were already aware of their injuries but still decided to participate in the IPL. Sachin and Yuvraj also requested the selectors to be omitted from the squad to the West Indies. The funniest part is that these same players decided to play through the IPL even though they were exhausted after an emotional World Cup triumph. An international series treated with such scant respect is something hard to imagine.

Even though the seniors miss out from the series, this for sure gives us an opportunity to test out our bench strength. Suresh Raina who will be captaining the side will be aware that this isn’t going to be an easy series. No matter which team turns up for this series, India are expected to win both the test and ODI series comfortably against a weak West Indies side. This will be Duncan Fletcher’s first series as Indian coach and he will get the firsthand account of India’s bench strength. For the youngsters though this will be a great opportunity to showcase their talent at the international arena.

Players like Badrinath, Rohit Sharma, and Shikar Dhawan would for sure get an extended run in the 5 match series and they would hope to cement their places in the ODI squad. The ODI team tough would probably suffer the least as we still have Raina, Rohit, Parthiv Patel and Kohli in the team who has played quite a few ODI’s for India. The bowling also has lots of experience in the presence of Bajji, Munaf, Praveen and Ishant along with Ashwin and Mishra. So the ODI team in all probability should do reasonably well but the major issues will be with the test squad which is missing three major players in the top of the order.

The test team will mark the debut of Abhinav Mukund, the dashing opener from Tamil Nadu who has a brilliant domestic record. He will join Murali Vijay at the top of the order. Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and captain Dhoni will have to probably guide the middle order which might consist of Kohli/Badri/Raina in the mix. The bowling though will be at its full strength in the presence of Zaheer, Sreesanth, Ishant, Munaf and Bajji. The selectors have done a decent job with the team selection considering that they were left with no option.

The ODI series begins tomorrow and it gives a depleted WI team a great opportunity to challenge an under strength Indian team. The series for sure will be competitive and Raina will surely want a better series as captain than the one he had in Zimbabwe last year. The series will be important for few youngsters who would want to impress with some good performances. This series also gives us fans a peek into the future, a future without Sachin/Dravid and Laxman in the squad. This will also give us a chance to look at the options we have when the greats eventually hand up their boots. The series starts tomorrow with the one-off T20 game, which will be followed by 5 ODI games. The test series begins on the 20th of June for which Dravid, Dhoni, Zaheer and Laxman will join the team. An interesting series in the offing and in spite of the big names missing from the squad, team India should win both the series comfortably. Good luck to Raina and hopefully he can complete the ODI series with a win under his belt.

Selectors hurl a googly again

The Indian team for the ODI/T20 leg of the West Indies tour was announced last Friday. Even though the team was on the expected lines, as it has been a routine these days with our selection committee we do have one surprising selection. In the world cup it was Piyush Chawla and now it is Wriddhimaan Saha. While everyone was expecting a call up for Ambati Rayudu who also is a wicketkeeper, the selectors once again surprised one and all with their choice. There was no doubt that Parthiv was going to be the first keeper but his deputy was the one in question.

Saha probably is a very good keeper but I haven’t seen him do anything special in the domestic level or in the IPL to warrant a place ahead of Dinesh Kartik or Ambati Rayudu. Rayudu who is a decent wicketkeeper and an excellent attacking batsman in the top and middle order and would feel extremely disappointed on being left out. This again is a very controversial selection by the Indian selection committee and it will be interesting to see how Ghambir and the team management will utilize Saha on this tour. I hope that he will have a better time on this tour than what Chawla had in the world cup

The rest of the team though was on expected lines. With the absence of Dhoni and Sehwag, Ghambir has been appointed as the captain for the ODI/T20 leg. Rohit Sharma and Badrinath make the team, based on their excellent domestic season and IPL performances. Ishant Sharma makes a comeback to the team and so does Praveen kumar who missed out from the World Cup due to injury. Vinay Kumar also makes a comeback to the team on the basis of good consistent performances at the domestic level. Munaf Patel retains his position in the squad after some wonderful performances in the shorter format of the game over the past few months. The selectors have gone with three spinners, Mishra, Ashwin and Harbajan. Mishra has been rewarded for having bowled brilliantly in the IPL and for probably being the best leg spinner in the country at the moment. Ashwin and Bajji made the squad as expected.

Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan make the rest of the squad. It’s overall a good team and the selectors have played it safe this time. They probably did not want to repeat the mistake of the Zimbabwe tri-series in 2010. The selectors also warded off the temptation of picking the young Rahul Sharma, who is having a brilliant IPL this year. He probably needs more time at the domestic level. It’s nice to see that the selectors have not taken the IPL performances entirely for the team selection and have awarded consistent performers in the domestic arena too. Apart from that one controversial selection, I feel that the selectors have done a great job in picking a good squad with fine balance. I hope that the young players under Ghambir do well and emerge victorious in this campaign.

Team for the ODI and T20:

Gautam Gambhir (captain), Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel (wk), Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, S Badrinath, Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Vinay Kumar, Yusuf Pathan, Amit Mishra, Wriddhiman Saha (wk).