For Indian cricket, 2012 began with a humiliating defeat in Sydney. Michael Clarke scored 329 and India’s golden generation, who had come within four wickets of glory at the same venue eight years earlier, faced up to the reality that they would never win a series on Australian soil. The year ended with defeat to Pakistan in a one-day international in Chennai.
2013 began on the same losing note, with a comprehensive defeat in front of a capacity crowd at Eden Gardens. With five one-day matches against England – who thrashed Australia and South Africa on home soil – and a Test series against Australia to come, it’s hard to see when winning ways will be restored.
For now, Indian cricket would be best served with the emphasis being on team-building rather than results. It’s become apparent over the past 18 months that the core group that won India the World Cup back in 2011 will not be adequate to retain the title in Australia in 2015. Sachin Tendulkar has retired, Virender Sehwag’s form has declined and it’s hard to see either Zaheer Khan or Harbhajan Singh making it to that tournament.
Given the conditions in Australia, the two areas that India need to focus on most are pace bowling, and batsmen who can handle the bounce. The techniques that work so well in subcontinent conditions will be hopelessly exposed in Australia. Without a sound back-foot game and a decent repertoire of horizontal-bat shots, you can forget about scoring too many runs there.
On the bowling side, you want those who can push the batsmen on to the back foot often enough, who can harry them into mistakes. Umesh Yadav was too scattergun during the series in Australia last year, but he at least has the raw pace to ask questions. Your average medium-pacer will get slaughtered unless he finds green-tinged pitches that give some lateral movement.Quote On
Dropcap OnThe upcoming series against England is the perfect time to give the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara an extended run in the one-day side. Rahane hasn’t had a long enough stint in the side to be judged, but there have been enough glimpses of a fine technique and superb stroke-making ability. Pujara has never played an ODI, but a List A average that’s nearly 60 tells you that the format is certainly not alien to him.
The pigeonholing of players has to stop. For years, Hashim Amla was considered a Test specialist. He now averages nearly 60, after that many one-day games. In ODIs, batsmen don’t need to take stupid risks. As Tendulkar showed while opening the batting for nearly two decades, you can play your normal game and punish fielding sides.
The other individual who really deserves a chance is Manoj Tiwary. Treated like the spare wheel for so long, Tiwary makes up in heart what he may lack in terms of talent. It’s nothing short of farcical that someone like Rohit Sharma has been given nearly 100 games – with little success – while Tiwary has to fend for one or two-game scraps.
Yadav and Varun Aaron – both currently on the injured list – are the quickest bowlers we’ve seen recently, but the selectors will no doubt closely watch the progress of individuals like Ishwar Pandey, who topped the wicket-taking charts during the league phase of the Ranji Trophy.
It’s also time to move on from the likes of Piyush Chawla. Someone who bowls a loose ball an over as a matter of course will never be able to exert the control required in limited-overs cricket. Pragyan Ojha, who should have played the Tests in Australia, is the best spin option, while R Ashwin needs to focus on his stock delivery before going down the experimentation route.
You look at Pakistan, with Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan and Saeed Ajmal, and it’s hard not to feel more than a twinge of envy.