Anyone who experienced the events leading up to Tendulkar’s half century on Day Two of the Melbourne Test would have been forgiven for thinking that the Boxing Day test was hovering towards a Tendulkar biopic fleetingly waiting to acknowledge a long awaited milestone. The next couple of days, however, seemed to outline the fact that the periphery of this achievement has rather harsh boundary conditions. As did the hopes of a victory on foreign soil, given that India’s next tour outside the subcontinent is a far two years away.
Thus, yet another favorable Test result has vanished into oblivion, leaving many of us wondering over the secret behind the magical formula that Gary Kirsten possessed, that others didn’t. A logical thought would question the challenge posed by during those tours outside the subcontinent when Kirsten was in charge as compared a tour to England and Australia, the latter by no means pushovers albeit their recent results.
Cricketing plans, in general, anticipate years of austerity and stability with fitness of talent pools ranking high amongst others. While talent remains plentiful in supply, the longevity of most remains a function of form and/or fitness. A lot of the younger players who’ve paid brief visits to the international setup resemble the yesteryear Internal Combustion Engines that possessed low volumetric and thermal efficiencies – a direct correlation to unfavorable statistics and rapid breakdown. Temperament remains a spark plug that pre-ignites when exposed to high temperatures.
Having said that, it is important to remember that the inevitable day when the Indian batting would be forced to field a middle order that resembles the current Australian top order – sharing a grand total of five test matches between them – isn’t far away. Whether the best laid plans weave a middle order fabric that fills the gap between the large sized shoe and small feet will remain unanswered for some time to come, it will be worth persisting with a few who’ve shown that with time, maturity evolves.
Persisting with Virat Kohli for the rest of the series, irrespective of the statistics that come out, is one way to tap the right ore. Given that he has matured into an outstanding ODI cricketer, it is hard to imagine why he cannot replicate his achievements in the longer formats. This would, on the other hand, mean shutting the doors for Rohit Sharma this tour, who seems to have picked off from where he left off the last time he toured down under. He has certainly seen enough downslides to let this hit his game hard again.
The archetypal Indian sentiment would find it hard to drop a veteran to accommodate a couple of youngsters given the lack of proximity of the next tour abroad. One may find it even needless to house such a need given that a prolonged gap wouldn’t require youngsters to be armored with foreign soil experience as immediately as the present moment. Even if the contrary decision was made, there is every chance that a few selectors could be painted as villains by a section of the fans and media for robbing their ‘local legends’ of a last ditched attempt to gain glory. The fact is hard to argue against, given that the veterans have had very good track records down under during previous tours.
But again, only one out of the four scheduled tests have been completed – even if it was premature. A Test match that gets over with over a whole day’s play left reflects quite strongly on either the nature of the wicket, or a single sided dominance. The effect of losing a potential entire cricketing day dances to a different tune than the one set by Samoa changing time zones in order to remain in line with its trading partners who are nearly a full day ahead.
The key for India to succeed will remain focal around sticking to this combination. The inabilities exposed haven’t changed with time – the opposition tails have forever wagged at amplitudes that summate those of all hundred odd Dalmatians. A large part of the blame, as gathered through eavesdropping on discussions between common man and common man during train and bus journeys, among others, has been cannoned towards MS Dhoni and his ‘defensive’ methods. The picture painted resents a star who neither takes his himself nor the dream job too seriously.
Although in reality, the belief must be that the Indian tail fails to place a price on its wicket. As much as men want to hate (yet find it hard not to like) Harbhajan Singh, he proved the most infuriating of all lower order batsman to get out, even amidst bouts of unaffected public depreciation down under. Ashwin, a craftsman plying the same trade, seems the nascent player showing signs of steadiness amongst a sample that includes the Indian skipper. Dhoni’s lack of inventiveness in wiping out an opposition tail would certainly have been neutralized, or even forgotten, had his willow yielded more runs.
The series is still young and alive, and whatever was learnt out of Melbourne must be applied in Sydney for sustenance. This would mandate sticking to the same combination, unless injuries hamper the thought, if India hopes to gain anything out of Sydney.