Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Season of Shame - II

(This is the second part of my review of Indian cricket over its home season. Part 1 is here)

With the test leg of India's season over, it was time for the Limited Overs Internationals. India were in a weird place wherein they would go top of the ODI and T20 rankings if they won their remaining matches in the year - 2 T20Is each against England and Pakistan and 1 ODI against Pakistan.

Ofcourse, India ended up splitting both T20 series (if you can call them series) and lost the first ODI to Pakistan. What was frustrating, though, was the management's insistence on picking players who were either out of form (Gambhir) or not suited to the format (Rahane).

While T20s can be a bit unpredictable, it is the 50-over format in which India have done really well. But with both openers (Gambhir & Sehwag/Rahane) being out of form & Virat Kohli suffering his first real lean patch since 2009, it was imperative for the captain to push himself up the order. Instead, we had Yuvraj Singh coming in at 4 every game with Raina at 5 while India's best ODI batsman batted at 6 (He even batted at 7 in one game). India's score when he came in to bat in these ODIs: 29/5, 70/4, 63/4, 198/4, 119/4, 144/3, 158/4, 49/4.

Yuvraj seems to be having the same problems as he has always had, in that he struggles against offspinners as 5 of his 8 dismissals were to offspinners. He finished his ODI leg with a duck today, which brought his average to 20 with just 1 fifty in 8 innings. I think he has been back long enough for people to question his place in the side, or at the very least where he bats.

None of the openers played with any amount of assurance, although an 83 from Rohit Sharma brought out all his fanbois. Some of them even drew a parallel between his numbers and those of Sachin Tendulkar before he opened the innings. Ofcourse they conveniently ignored the fact that Rohit had opened in ODIs before albeit on just three occasions. Sure enough, he was out today driving on the up for just 4 runs. Ajinkya Rahane put up a very mediocre run of scores, although I fail to understand why people expected someone with a List A average of below 40 to do well in ODIs in the first place. It's the same with Rohit Sharma who averages slightly less than Rahane in List A matches but has played 87 ODIs while players like Pujara couldn't make the squad until the England series despite having a List A average of just under 57!

Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami gave the fans something to be happy about. Both seem to possess the accuracy and discipline essential for being an international bowler. Kumar can even bowl long spells as Dhoni has bowled him out at the start of the innings on more than one occasion. What impressed me about Shami was he decided to attack Nasir Jamshed from around the wicket right from ball one. Jamshed had looked at ease against the Indian seamers as none of them really had threatened his stumps, pads and either edge of his bat until then. After scoring a hundred in each of his last 3 ODIs against India, he looked really uncomfortable and was beaten time and again by all the bowlers. For some inexplicable reason, he was dropped for the first ODI against England and India promptly lost the game.

Among the spinners, Ashwin continued to be erratic and should be a cause for concern going forward. It's a pity that the selectors don't consider Pragyan Ojha good enough for LOIs because he is a better bowler than Ashwin in all formats. Fortunately for them, Ravindra Jadeja had a terrific run in the ODIs. It's high time people realise he is a bowler who can bat a bit rather than the other way round.

While the 1-2 and 3-2 scoreline reflects the performance of the respective sides, I feel that an Indian team with the right personnel and right batting order would have beaten Pakistan 2-1 and swept England with plenty left in the tank. The Champions Trophy is in June and India aren't scheduled to play any ODIs before that. Not the best way to prepare but then I seem to be one of the few who seem to care about that competition.

This has been one of the worst home seasons for Indian cricket. Probably the worst since Tendulkar made his debut. The side needs to undergo a massive overhaul in tests and a few changes in LOIs, which brings us back to the upcoming Border Gavaskar Trophy and the squad I think India should pick.

1. Mahendra Singh Dhoni
2. Virender Sehwag
3. Ajinkya Rahane
4. Cheteshwar Pujara
5. Virat Kohli
6. Subramaniam Badrinath
7. Ravindra Jadeja
8. Ravichandran Ashwin
9. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar
10. Umesh Yadav/Ishant Sharma
11. Pragyan Ojha
12. Shikhar Dhawan
13. Rohit Sharma
14. Pankaj Singh
15. Mohammad Shami

After 3 years without a hundred and a tendency to cost the team wickets with his running between wickets, it is time for Gautam Gambhir to make way for someone else. While I'm not a fan of Rahane in LOIs, I feel he has been kept out of the test side way too long given his record in first class cricket. Although the selectors should have told Sehwag to shed some of that fat long ago, they can still do it and pick him but make it clear that a bad series against Australia would lead to him being dropped and out of contention for the South Africa tour unless he dazzles them by putting in some hard yards in County cricket post IPL. Shikhar Dhawan can be the reserve opener.

The middle order should see Virat Kohli move up to number four as there is no place for a struggling Tendulkar in the side. I am well aware that the selectors will never do this. However, I can't make my picks based on what they will or won't do. The number 5 spot should go to one of Rohit Sharma, Subramaniam Badrinath or Manoj Tiwary. I am tempted to go with Badrinath at 5 with Rohit as backup. Harsh on Tiwary but he didn't exactly have a great season before he got injured. Neither did Badri, but has been consistent for much longer than any of his peers and has shown that he can put a price on his wicket better than any of the younger batsmen.

Ravindra Jadeja won a place in the test side with excellent performances with bat and ball. He outbowled two of the frontline spinners in Nagpur so he retains his place. While Mahendra Singh Dhoni hasn't done too well of late, any decision on his future in tests should be taken after this series. If he doesn't do well, the selectors should announce his replacement as soon as the series is over rather than wait till the eleventh hour like they did with Laxman. Again, I know they are unlikely to do any of this.

The spinners retain their places although with Ashwin it's more down to a lack of viable alternatives more than anything else. If he has a bad series Ojha should go ahead of him for the spot of first-choice spinner, although recent history suggests the selectors are unlikely to do it. I don't see the need for a third spinner as Jadeja is more than capable of bowling long and accurate spells.

Coming to the seamers, I think it would be a major risk to pick Zaheer Khan given his injury problems. There is no news on Umesh Yadav but if he's fit, he plays in the 11 alongwith Ishant Sharma. If not, either Pankaj Singh or Bhuvaneshwar Kumar should make their debut with Mohammad Shami getting the final spot. It might be a risky move but Pankaj Singh has ticked all the boxes without being considered for a place, while Bhuvaneshwar Kumar has also been consistently among the wickets in first class cricket.

I fully expect India to win this series given how inexperienced the Australian side is likely to be. Of their top 7, Clarke is the only one to have played test cricket in India. It is anybody's guess as to which pace bowlers will make the trip as there are major injury concerns for a number of them. Nathan Lyon is their first-choice spinner and with all due respect to him, he isn't as good as either of the England spinners. Expect a close series with India winning by either 2-1 or 2-0.





4 comments:

  1. My choice of team will be similar to yours. Just the final line-up will be different.

    R Ashwin
    S Dhawan
    C Pujara
    S Tendulkar
    V Sehwag
    V Kohli
    M Dhoni
    R Jadeja
    B Kumar
    U Yadav / Ishant Sharma
    P Ojha

    If one does not want to open with Ashwin, then the below line up.

    V Sehwag
    S Dhawan
    C Pujara
    V Kohli
    S Tendulkar
    M Dhoni
    R Jadeja
    B Kumar
    U Yadav / Ishant Sharma
    P Ojha

    ReplyDelete
  2. i think we are yet to see a bottom in India's test standing. we need a batting line up that can begin to draw games. Then wait for the right conditions for the bowlers to take 20 wickets and win a test here and there

    Evidence from the last 3 home series, NZ , Eng and WI is that India still think they can win every match at home. Insist on turning pitches and watch their own batsmen humiliate themselves.

    I say irrespective of the team composition, India needs to do the hard yards first in learning to draw games.

    My big fear is as always....that Sachin will click in one of the early tests and the obscenetities that will follow as hero worship what happens to india the team will be conveniently forgotten

    ReplyDelete
  3. oh I just realized that this is the second part of the season of shame, I've gotta read the first part, thanks for sharing the link of the first post, I will go and check it out right now

    ReplyDelete