After the agony, it’s time to feel ecstatic for cricket fans in India. After some very disappointing performances in Tests over the last two years, Indian cricket is finally on the winning track again thanks to back-to-back Test wins against the touring Australian team.So what do these victories mean for us? Or, how do these two victories help us in rebuilding our future team? It may not be the right time to point out the negative aspects, but we also need to introspect when we win, for bad teams analyse when they lose, good teams review their performance even when they win. It’s in the time of victory that we tend to lose focus of long term success. If success is built on short-term plans, it is bound to fail in the long run.
India’s success so far in the ongoing Border-Gavaskar series is a perfect example of getting success on short-term priorities which may not translate into building a solid team for the future. But the question is: what do we want to achieve? Do we want to develop a team which will win only on Indian pitches or do we want to be a team which will win irrespective of conditions?Looking at the Indian squad which played in the last two Tests, it doesn’t seem like we are serious in building a team which will win us series across the world.
Apart from Cheteshwar Pujara and, to some extent, Virat Kohli, not a single Indian batsman has the required technique to do well on hard and bouncy pitches against a quality pace attack. The way our batsmen struggled against English spinners Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar highlights their technical ineptness even against the turning ball.
The main concern for Indian batting is their opening pair. One of the reasons why India became number one was their brilliant opening duo of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. Once they lost form, the Indian team started struggling. But the team continued to keep faith in them for three years. Finally, the selectors had to drop Gambhir for the Australian Tests but persisted with a struggling Virender Sehwag. Despite getting so many chances, Sehwag could not show any improvement. And the result was that he too was dropped for the last two Tests. That means India would be opening with two inexperienced batsmen in South Africa which will be a huge task for them.
Meanwhile, Murali Vijay, who got the opportunity to open in place of Gambhir, scored a classy ton in Hyderabad, but given his flashy style of batting he remains a susceptible candidate against the swinging ball outside the off-stump.
The reason as to why we shouldn’t cheer this victory as much is that this Australian team looked completely out-of-sorts against the moderate Indian spinners. R Ashwin is not an Anil Kumble. He may have taken wickets against the inexperienced Australian batsmen, but his performance outside India is horrible to say the least.
Harbhajan Singh of 2013 is a complete shadow of the 2001 version of the off-spinner who tormented the great Australian team almost single-handedly. Whether Ravindra Jadeja, who was also among the wickets in the first two Tests, deserves a place in the longer version of the game is still a debatable issue. In spite of his three first-class triple tons, his batting needs a lot of fine tuning before he establishes himself as a Test batsman. Despite Pragyan Ojha getting wickets in a heap against England, no one is sure of his ability to pluck wickets on unresponsive pitches.
Despite Dhoni’s superb double century in Chennai, is he a permanent solution to India’s number 6 slot? Does he have the technique to survive on tracks which assist fast bowling? After Ganguly’s retirement in 2008, nobody has made that spot their own. It was an ideal opportunity to groom someone for the number 6 slot for the South African series where Dhoni will definitely bat at number 7. Ajinkya Rahane, who has been carrying drinks for a long time, would have been the right man to bat at that slot.
If batting or spin bowling does not inspire much of a confidence, pace bowling is another aspect which is an area of concern. With Umesh Yadav and Zaheer Khan out with injuries and Ishant Sharma not getting enough wickets to justify his place in the team, the Indian pace bowling suddenly looks bare. Spinners can win you matches in India but outside the sub-continent one definitely needs at least three to four quality pacers to win Tests. Only Uttar Pradesh swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar looked impressive but it’s very early to comment on his future, for we have seen a lot of bowlers in the recent past who fizzled away after initial success at international level.
Sometimes one needs to apply a ‘horses for courses’ policy. But this policy will only yield short term results in favourable conditions. There is hardly any doubt that India will win the Test series against this weak Australian side but this gives no guarantee that this team will do well in the future.