Positives from England
An otherwise disastrous tour where India were whitewashed in Tests and ODIs, not a single Indian fan wants to remember the summer of 2011 in England. Despite the agony, there are some younger players who have shown the stomach for a fight to make the Indian fans believe that all is not lost.
Ajinkya Rahane: If there is one thing that India’s England tour will be remembered, it’s for the emergence of Ajinkya Rahane as a future star. A player who has the capability of carrying the mantle of India’s batting once Sachin, Dravid and Laxman leave the field, Rahane seamlessly crossed the heavy wall which separates domestic and international cricket.
No one ever doubted the talent of this Mumbai batsman who in the last four years set the domestic cricket circuit on fire, scoring at an incredible average of over 67 in first-class matches. His potential as a longer version player had given rise to the hope that he would be first picked in the India’s Test squad. But as luck would have it, he got his first taste of international cricket in the one-off T20 match of the England series after some seniors were ruled out of the ODI series due to injury. And he looked pretty much the part of the top level cricket with some silky drives and pulls. In a series where short-pitched ball became India’s nemesis, he hit the short stuff without any fuss and took the English bowlers by surprise with a fluent 39-ball 61.
In five ODIs that followed, he was one of the few stand-out performers of Team India, scoring 158 runs at an average of 31.60 with a half-century to his name.
It’s not alone the number of runs he made, but the way he amassed those that impressed cricket pundits. From the first day he reached England, he looked positive, calm and composed. The biggest strength of his is that he never tries to play unorthodox, but gets his runs by playing proper cricketing shots. It’s no doubt that he, along with Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, is India’s biggest bet to be successful in Tests in the coming days.
Parthiv Patel: Ever since MS Dhoni arrived on the scene, he made life very difficult for aspiring wicket-keepers to get into the team. But considering Dhoni’s huge work-load, India always need a man behind the stumps who can step into the side in his absence. Despite getting enough chances, talented Dinesh Karthik never made the spot his own. Wridhhiman Saha’s wicket-keeping may be among the country’s best but his batting remains a weak-link. Naman Ojha did get chance but could not impress.
The selectors then had no option but to bring out Parthiv Patel, who as a teenager made his debut in India’s 2003 England tour. After being dropped from the side after a couple of years, Parthiv honed his wicket-keeping skills as well as worked on his shot making qualities. He scored heavily in the domestic circuit and became a tough cricketer mentally.
The result is for everyone to see. When he was asked to open the innings in the limited-over matches, he gave some impressive starts to the Indian innings. He improved his batting to such a level that he can come into the team purely as a batsman. He never shied away from the challenges at hand, hooking and pulling mercilessly against the fiery English bowlers. His fearless batting at the top was among the few positives India had.
Praveen Kumar: Praveen Kumar proved everybody wrong in the West Indies Test series by picking up a five-for in his debut Test. Prior to the West Indies series, he was considered to be only a limited-overs bowler. His military medium pace did not auger confidence among the fans and analysts alike. Even after the West Indian series, some people were doubtful of his ability to do well in Tests against the quality English batsmen.
But what he lacked in speed, he made up with swing. Everyone in the English team got the taste of Praveen’s swinging deliveries. He baffled the superior opponents with in-swings, out-swings, late swings which were bowled with impeccable line and length. He was the only bowler who was able to earn respect from the opposition camp. Though he could not get enough support from the other end, he, along with Ishant Sharma, showed enough stomach for a fight against the hosts. No wonder he finished the 3-match series with 15 wickets and a five-for.
Ishant Sharma: In the absence of Zaheer Khan, Ishant carried the Indian aspiration on the field. He maintained the good work of West Indies after making a comeback in England too. Though his wicket column may not inspire much confidence, those who watched the Test match proceedings in England know that the lanky bowler bowled his heart out and came pretty close to claiming more wickets. Many a times he beat the bat without being rewarded. There is little doubt that if he is able to remain fit, he will be India’s bowling spearhead in the coming days.
Ravindra Jadeja: When Ravindra Jadeja was named as the replacement for injured Gautam Gambhir, almost everyone criticized the decision. There were jokes around him on Twitter. But the young man grabbed the opportunity, making a fine half-century as well as picking up three wickets in his comeback match. He came to bat in the 3rd ODI at a time when the team was struggling, but he batted sensibly to make 79 and, along with captain Dhoni, batted India out of trouble.
When India came to defend, he again picked up 3 wickets to claim the Man of the Match in his comeback tie. When he was discarded before the World Cup after being given an extended run, his bowling was never a worry. It’s his batting which raised questions. Now that he has improved as a batsman he is the best person to be called as India’s elusive all-rounder.