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Prasad Moyarath

Indian juggernaut rolls on. India’s dream run at home continues. Sports journalists showered words of praise on the Indian cricket team for their recent one day international series victories over England and West Indies in India. They have forgotten the Indian team’s pathetic show in England recently. With a tri-nation series in Australia approaching, what purpose these home matches have served for Indian cricket is a matter to ponder for cricket aficionados.

Injuries combined with the overdose of cricket compelled the BCCI to rest many senior stars for these home ODIs. But this also dished out a golden opportunity to the Indian selectors to groom new replacements for the current stars. But to everyone’s dismay, the BCCI and its selectors have proved once again that they are least interested in the future. What have they done wrong? The answer to this question, though lengthy, will be easier than finding an answer for what they have done right.

BCCI could have used the home season as an opportunity to build on a younger opening pair in Rahane and Patel

Circumstances forced the Indian team management to find a new opening pair of Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane in England. They did considerably well in the trying circumstances in England. It is more difficult to groom a new opening pair than a new player. Knowing this well, the Indian selectors could have continued with them for the ten ODIs in India. Even though both these players were part of the team, the selectors never seemed to imagine about such a possibility. This pair was never given a continued run and both these players were on trial thereby spoiling their confidence. Were the selectors expecting 38 year old Tendulkar and 33 year old Sehwag to continue as openers for a long time? With Gambhir being injury prone and a one dimensional player, it is time the selectors start looking for a new opening pair. The selectors and the team management should have guided Parthiv and Ajinkya and molded them as a reliable opening pair.

Number three or one down is a very crucial batting slot in any form of the game and India is yet to find a good replacement for Dravid for this position. Virat Kohli has relished this position and has done well in the recent past. The Indian selectors and the team management could have instilled confidence in him to take over this responsible role.

Lack of a fast bowling all-rounder has been haunting the Indian side ever since the retirement of Kapil Dev. Apart from Irfan Pathan, the Indian selectors have not unearthed any other options so far. But India seems to have discovered a spin bowling all-rounder in Ravindra Jadeja. He is a compact batsman and should be sent ahead of Raina in the batting order. Ashwin and Vinay Kumar also seem to have batting abilities and the ODI series at home could have been used to unearth their batting talents. Rahul Sharma was given a chance only at the end of the West Indian series and so was Manoj Tiwari. If they were not needed for these matches, instead of sitting in the dressing room, the BCCI could have released them to play Ranji Trophy matches for their state.

Umesh Yadav and Varun Aoron demonstrated the importance of pace in international cricket and the selectors still seem unwilling to shed their old habits. They have gone back to Mithun and Vinay kumar who lack pace. T P Sudhindra of Madhya Pradesh, Shami Ahamed and Ashok Dinda of Bengal should have got a look-in in these inconsequential ODIs. Going by the current form, Abhishek Nayar also should have got a recall as a seam bowling all-rounder.

The stand in captain Sehwag was not good enough and openly criticized the top order for their failure thereby putting pressure on the top order. But he still continued to play some irresponsible shots. India need to look beyond Dhoni as captain and the selectors wasted a golden opportunity to groom Virat Kohli for the future.

The BCCI should stop treating ODIs at home as sources of revenue. Each series should be planned with future in mind. For example, a series in Australia should not be preceded by a series at home. The selectors should have confidence in their abilities and should not drop a player based on public opinion. The case of Ravindra Jadeja clearly proves how the public opinion can go wrong.

Can we expect any planning for the future from the BCCI who is unwilling to listen to Anil Kumble’s plan for NCA? If Kumble is giving up, I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.


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.

An Expected Disaster

Posted: July 27, 2011 by Prasad Moyarath in Cricket, India in England 2011

 Prasad Moyarath

 27 July 2011


The inevitable has happened. A fervent Indian supporter might be shocked but for a cricket connoisseur, the Indian loss in the first test at Lords was not unexpected. Though the figures rank India as the No.1 test team in the world, a comparison of this Indian team with strong test teams of the past like the West Indies under Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards and Australia under Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting will make anyone doubt the current system of test ranking and the standard of test cricket.

By ignoring youngsters like Kohli, the selectors have turned a blind eye towards the future

An England tour was always looked upon by all Indian cricket enthusiasts with great hope considering the testing conditions for both batsmen and bowlers. Players also considered England as a place to showcase their mettle as it provided ultimate test to their abilities as a player. Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly cemented their places in Indian team after spectacular performances in one such England tour. But the current England tour looks completely different. BCCI which manages cricket in India with a monetary vision never seemed to understand the importance of test cricket or a need to groom a future test team while their selectors selected the team for the series. Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth and Munaf Patel coming back from injuries were included in the test squad for the series without any match practice with all the above mentioned with the exception of Sehwag available for selection for the first test. Wriddhiman Saha was included as a reserve wicket keeper replacing Parthiv Patel to maintain the BCCI’s age old tradition of musical chair for reserve players there by losing a reserve opener with proven ability in English conditions. BCCI never bothered to include any of the youngsters like Virat Kohli, Ashwin or Umesh Yadav in the team with future in mind. India paid a very heavy price for this lackluster attitude of the BCCI by losing Zaheer Khan on the first day of the Lords test.

Captaincy of Dhoni has been debatable for a long time despite the World Cup victory. His defensive tactics have always helped the opposition in winning moral victories in test matches and this was very evident in the last test against West Indies. His lack of confidence in the World’s best batting line up including himself was exposed when he decided to bowl first after winning the toss there by awarding a moral victory to England even before the start. Though many supported Dhoni’s decision considering the cloudy conditions that prevailed at Lords in the first day morning, the decision raised the eyebrows of all those who watched the Lord’s test in 1990 when Azharuddin committed the same mistake and the Leeds test in 2002 when Saurav Ganguly bravely opted to bat. India lost the Lord’s test in 1990 after Gooch scored 333 and India won the Leeds test after Sanjay Bangar and Rahul Dravid batted bravely in the swinging conditions sharing a 170 run second wicket partnership. The Indian management including the former England coach Fletcher seemed to ignore the history and batting conditions in England.

Dhoni’s post match comment blaming the change of batting order in the second innings and variable bounce for the loss was never befitting the No.1 team. India could not bowl out England in both the innings and our experienced batsmen never applied themselves. This loss clearly exposed the lack of preparation which was never expected. The Indian cricket team selection should be free from the clutches of sponsors and the BCCI should field players who play for the country over the ones who earn for the sponsors. In a country where the cricket’s governing body is more interested in IPL matches that fill their coffers more than international matches and where the media boast every match as an event for Tendulkar’s next world record, this loss in a historical test match will go down as yet another forgotten piece of history.