Tuesday, 24 July, 2007

Will history repeat?

When Steve Bucknor surprisingly (or shockingly, as some would say) turned down Monty Panesar's appeal against last man Sreesanth, all his past indiscretions against Indian team and its players were forgotten. For, that was as plum as a rather large plum from a big plum tree in Plumshire! To me, it was also the most definitive moment of the final day of the intensely fought first test at Lords. Simply because without it, everything including Karthik's gritty 60, MS Dhoni's gallant 76 n.o, his stand with VVS Laxman or even the heavenly intervention would have been rendered ineffective.

Much as I would have preferred to see the first test end in an unambiguous manner rather than a rain forced draw, I was also relieved that India luckily wriggled out of what potentially could have been a series costing loss. In recent past Indian team has found itself agonisingly close to victory, most notably during the test series in Caribbean last year, when they failed to dismiss the WI tail enders both at Antigua and St Lucia. May be India deserved the rub of green too!

Indians may have escaped defeat, but make no mistake, their batsmen are scarred. If a young and second string English attack can so rattle the 'famed' Indian line up, I don't want to imagine what a full fledged seam attack of Flintoff, Hoggard and Harmison was capable of. And we aren't even talking of Simon Jones. There are questions asked of the Indian middle order, and rightly so.

Sachin Tendulkar finds himself in the spotlight and as often was the case for last couple of years, all for wrong reasons. Along with Rahul Dravid he is still the 'untouchable' as far as selectors are concerned. But it may not be for long. This series could well answer the questions that his critics have raised on his reliability as a frontline batsmen. Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman seem to play to survive the next test. Atleast it appears so. If Sachin still has couple of tests to prove a point or two to his critics, Ganguly and VVS won't be so fortunate. One of them will have to make way for Yuvraj, who is too good a player to be sitting on the bench when others on the field are either failing or are only moderately successful.

The bowlers meanwhile have come out of the Lords test with their reputation enhanced. If not for their efforts, India would not have possibly taken this game into the fifth day. I believe they have a more prominent role to play in the remaining tests, for, Trent Bridge and Kennington Oval will offer more help to bowlers than Lords.

India has a 100% record of winning the series when they have forced a draw in the first test in England. The 1971 series was won without 'meaningful' contribution from batsmen. 1986 was more of a all round effort, with almost equal contributions from both bowlers and batsmen. If India are to maintain that record, they will need batsmen to set aside their 'tentativitis' while facing the swinging ball and bowlers to continue their good work.

Will the real Chandra, Vengsarkar and Chetan Sharma from current squad stand up please?


Golandaaz said...

The reason why Ganguly and VVS appear to play for the next game is true; however that can be said of every team member. We do nothave a settled team. Subcontinental teams are never really settled but it is strong leaders who create that perception. Imran, Kapil, Ganguly are a few who had the luxury of strategizing and executing multi-year plans. It was only under Saurav's regime that we got Harbhajan, Yuvraj, Zaheer, Sehwag, Dhoni, etc. and had a settled look.

The current leadership is clueless; because none exists.

My bet is on the Indian batsman to deliver in the next 2 days. I believe that they are still good enough to adapt to any attack, any situation, any pitch. They are slow starters; but given time they will dominate.

England must be feeling very uncomfortable at this point. Indian batting is only going to be better from this point on and England misssed a golden opportunity to effectively clinch the series.

Sachin is just fine, I believe he has 3-4 more years in him. I just want to see him mature as a leader. Debut as a teenager has hampered his growth as a leader. He is making his current problems an emotional ones. What he lacks is a mentor. Someone like a Shastri cold, honest and demanding. His goals need to be set broader, not on runs he scores but milestones in the evolution of the Indian cricket team. Even if he does not score a single 100 in the next 4 years and averages 30 odd consistently I believe he has a role in the team, provided of course he architects the next generation Indian team. He simply has too much knowledge to be sitting at home and get lost in the BCCI madness.

Also if you drop him, he will score a triple hundred in his first first class match and you will have to bring him back.

It is best to let Sachin determine what he wants to do. If he choses to retire that is fine as well. You can't push a man into doing things when there is no motivation. All in all if am absolutely fine with Sachin owning his own destiny.

VVS is too complete of a batsman to be dropped. Even yesterday he was more fluent that any other Indian batsman. Had he survived the one that kept low, who knows we would have cursed the rain for we would have been in a position to force a win.

Ganguly needs to go. Also I think in these conditions Agarkar is a better bet than RP. I know he took a 5 for but his batting needs a lot of improvement. Agarkar for Sree Sant is also a decision worth dedicating some time to. Sree Santh is struggling.

Win this escape; my sense is that it is anyone's series for now. It was England's to lose and they batted themselves out of it at Lords.

Soulberry said...

Let me compliment you CG, on yet another wonderful article.

I couldn't agree more with you, and it isn't because you force me to do so!

They are Lords no more...twiddly fingers were on view aplenty on the Lord's balcony, but there shan't be another twirling shirt there. Lord's is, and Lords are, done, dusted and ready to be stored away.

I can't forget Dravid twirling a ball in his hands, Sachin, the cheetah, flashing the best of his whitest fangs, Ganguly, heavy head held in his hand and later deeply immersed in a glossy journal, Laxman just hanging around in the gloomy background, and beyond him a bowling coach exchanging high-fives with his wards...I can't forget the aptness of it all.

Soulberry said...

Maybe, like you say, India may prise out a series win now!

Will I dance with joy then? I cannot say with any certainity....the future is an uncomfortable truth.

Cricket Guru said...

Golandaaz, I was surprised that you still feel Sachin has another 3/4 years of cricket left. After Kapil, I am not ready to to witness yet another 'Charm of a struggling champion'

As for dropping him, if indeed they take that extreme step, it would be just to signal their intent that even Sachin is no longer an automatic number 4 in the starting XI. And if he makes a comeback by scoring heavily in domestic cricket, that would only mean good news for him and Indian cricket.

Like you said, Indian batsman have a history of getting better with every passing test on an overseas tour. I am banking on it.

SB, Thanks!

I cannot help but remember our series win in WI last year. Yes we won after 25 years, but in nutshell, would you call it a milestone in Indian cricket? No.

I hope this series takes a different turn to the WI one.

If India does lose this seies, its repurcations would be surely felt in Indian cricketing corridors. None, including the fab four, stand insulated from it. But even in victory, I want an emphatic performance. A future defining one.

Atm though, the future is an uncomfortable truth, as you say.

Soulberry said...

True..If you remember, we did enjoy the victory in WI, but with half-a-heart. And it wasn't due to the presence of all our West Indian friends on the forum then.

We knew, this was less than what it could/should have been. The relief at winning an overseas series couldn't mitigate the unease one felt on an unconvincing series performance and the ODI's before. How true our instincts were, time has shown us.

I do not believe a comprehensive win is possible here...the kind you suggest. India lacks the completeness of attack to do so. I'll just explain myself briefly - the bowlers did well, may do as well, but there aren't any guarantees. I mentioned elsewhere about the "surprise factor" the Indian attack has always thrived on of late in overseas series...an attack which is never the same for a second series, soon followed by diminishing performance as the series advances and familiarity grows. One another reason, I mentioned in India's inability to change this, or halt this trend while the opps/home team became more used to the new kids on the block, was the decline of Kumble and Bhajji as incisive blades of the attack on each of the tours they played recently. Kumble ceases to surprise as often now with a Murali-less and Warne-less turn...guys just have to play him carefull now, and he drifts off his accuracy oftener. Bhajji was defunct. A huge turner can still surprise with it, and assisted by a fourth/fifth day pitch, even if he isn't 100% in form...enough to matter at critical times.

Kumble these days has to fall back to being a containing bowler rather than the main spearhead of the attack. That's the big difference...earlier on overseas tours, he did well as the tour progressed, but now not as much. One big reason why we cede our early lead or fail to bounce back in a series now.

All the tours since Australia have borne the same stamp..except Sehwag's 309 Pakistan series India won...even then we conceded a match right away, but the pitches there helped both our bowlers and batsmen to aid our bounce-back on the shoulders of two new bowlers - Balaji and Pathan. The surprise element wasn't evident later on in the next series from Pakistan's point of view.

Unknown said...

golandaaz, i'm bemused that you feel ganguly should go. he was the second highest scorer at lord's from the indian team. dhoni got 76 in all, ganguly got 74, jaffer 66, karthick 65, laxman 54, tendulkar 53 and dravid 11. more on this here... seniors v juniors? not really

Golandaaz said...

My theory behind asking Ganguly to go is simple. He is a greater asset to the team as a captain than as a batsman. If Ganguly can be made captain again, great Ganguly is welcome to stay.

Ideally I would have liked someone younger, to replace Ganguly; not Dravid.

In their current roles both Dravid and Ganguly are roadblocks to the future of Indian cricket. Dravid should play as a batsman under a "captain of the future" and Ganguly should quit to let Yuvraj get a hang of test cricket.

My assessment holds good even if Saurav scores a 100 in the next 3 matches.

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