One final chance for ageing superstars to conquer Australia

Posted: November 27, 2011 by Prasad Moyarath in Cricket, India Cricket, Opinion
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Prasad Moyarath

An Australian tour always provided an ultimate test of character for any cricketer and remained a tough frontier to conquer for any team. The pace and bounce of the Australian pitches combined with its bigger boundaries intimidated the batsmen from the subcontinent to such an extent that a big innings in Australia is epitomised as his ability to play quality fast bowling. Off-spinners struggling, fast bowlers bowling a wrong length, fielders struggling with their throw from the boundary, wicket-keepers fumbling are all common problems faced by the teams from the subcontinent in Australia. The Australian media are well known for their attack on opposition captain and almost all sub-continental teams have had some bitter experience in the past.

Yet another Australian tour is round the corner for the Indian cricket team. Indian selectors have announced a 17 member squad for the four test series which looks strong and well balanced in paper. But for any cricket connoisseur, this team does not inspire any confidence. Though this team has a set of talented youngsters and established stars, the way this team has been groomed as a unit and its preparation for this tough tour has raised the eyebrows of many. Having followed many Indian tours of Australia particularly the last two in 2003-04 and 2007-08, this team for me, does not look strong enough to conquer Australia even with their new look side.

Sreesanth and Harbhajan are known to get under the skin of the Aussies. They might be missed. © The Indian Express

India drew the series 1-1 in 2003-04 and lost 2-1 in 2007-08. Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Zaheer who were part of those two tours are still there in this team. Dhoni toured Australia in 2007-08. Team with 6 experienced players should have an upper hand against a new look Australian squad. But a look at the performances of the 6 Indian experienced stars makes me jittery. Zaheer is coming out of an injury. Though Sehwag has scored a few half centuries after his come back, his performances have not been convincing. But Sehwag is unpredictable and can fire any time and India’s performance in Australia depends to a great extent on the innings he plays there. Dravid has been in great form and should continue his dream run in Australia. The whole nation is waiting for a century from Tendulkar and this expectation seems to affect the great master. Despite his big knocks in India, Tendulkar does not look to be in a good rhythm. Laxman has always produced some wonderful performances against Australians, but age seems to have caught up with him. His feet are not moving like in his younger days and with his slow reflexes, he can be a burden on the field in Australia. Dhoni has a dubious batting record outside the sub continent and his keeping has also not lived up to the expectations recently. Australians are well known for their meticulous planning and they are sure to exploit the above weaknesses of Indian stars.

It will be the first test series in Australia for Gambhir (though he impressed in the one-day series there back in 2008). Kohli is yet to cement his place in the test squad and his weakness against short pitched balls which became evident in West Indies will be exploited by Australians. He needs to display how he has rectified this short coming. Rahane and Rohit Sharma are yet to make their debut in test cricket and don’t expect to play any part in the test team unless any of the batsmen gets injured. Only one among the two spinners will play in 3 test matches except in Sydney. Praveen Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron will relish the conditions and it is up to them to make their presence felt. Saha will be a mere passenger unless Dhoni gets injured. India needs to play Umesh and Varun in all the test matches and knowing the leadership style of Dhoni, it looks a distant dream.

What is lacking in this “strong” team compared to the previous tours? To be honest, this Indian team lacks characters, those who have the guts to fight it out in the middle and those who can inspire others with their cameo. India will surely miss players like Saurav Ganguly, Sreesanth and Harbhajan. It is not that these players should be included in this squad, but this team lacks “something” which these players have which will help them fight against all odds.

What could have been done to improve India’s chances? The West Indian tour to India ahead of this Australian tour is a big blunder. The flat pitches here did not help the cause either. The Indian selectors and the team management never bothered to groom the players. Rohit Sharma was identified as a test batsman very late and the captain did not have the courage to play him in place of an established star even after winning the series. Same is the case with Rahane. The Indian selectors have still not identified the players to replace the 3 greats. They should have played Rahane and Rohit by resting Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman in rotation. Now it is suicidal to blood these batsmen in trying conditions in Australia in case of a crisis. Parthiv Patel as a reserve keeper would have solved the batsmen’s injury worries considering his experience in Australia. Why the selectors don’t consider him as a batsman despite some crucial knocks against Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar is still a mystery. By denying a chance for Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron to bowl in tandem in Mumbai, the Indian team management missed a golden opportunity to groom a new fast bowling pair. With a captain who wants the Indian test pitches to assist spinners from the first day onwards, this was not unexpected.

The years 2003 and 2007 left the Indian cricket lovers broken hearted due to the Boxing Day test matches in Melbourne. The year 2011 seems to end in the same note. Unless the Indian openers give a sound start and our team management gives up their defensive thinking and our new fast bowlers rip through the Australian batting line up, this Indian team don’t seem capable of presenting a happy 2012 to its fans. Good Luck Dhoni and team.

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Comments
  1. Nagaraj Kura says:

    Yes, Parthiv should have played instead of Saha. I think Praveen, Ishant & Zak will do well, so as Yadav & Umesh if given chances. If Parthiv is played in rotaion with Dhoni, with Gambhir as rotational captain, we can take risk of playing additional bowler (why not 3 pace + 1 spin attack), considering and hoping that Ashwin will be played as allrounder and playing Parthiv as batsman. My take is to play Umesh/ Aaron, Zak & Ishant along with Ashwin.
    In batting we can play Gambhir, Sehwag as opners
    Dravid – No 3. Tendulkar – No 4, Laxman – No 5, Kohli – 6 or umesh at 11, Parthiv – 7 , Ashwin – 8, Zak- 9, Ishant – 10 & Umesh and or Aaron/Praveen at 11 or Kohli at 6.

  2. Nagaraj Kura says:

    *4 pace + 1 spin (typo above)

  3. Yes Nagaraj. India should play 5 bowlers in Australia.2 raw quicks will help India there but Dhoni will play only Praveen,Zaheer and Ishant. We don’t have an attacking captain and that is why I doubt the capability of this team.

  4. bini says:

    Hey, din know that they have ommitted the fastest bowlers for the tour. This is Bad control for cricket in India.

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